Health and safety for large events

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


There are lots of health and safety issues to think about when you are organising an event. Especially if your event will be held outside or in a marquee instead of a permanent building. 

We strongly recommend that organisers of large events take advice from a health and safety professional.

Large event safety plan

As part of your overall event management plan, you will need to have a written event safety plan and policy.  You may need to provide a draft of your plan as part of an event licensing application.  You will also need to have a copy to show enforcement officers during the event.

Your event safety plan and policy needs to include:

  • Organiser details
  • Description of event
  • Public liability insurance
  • A full timetable of your event
  • Layout and facilities
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Health, safety and welfare arrangements
  • Risk assessments including risk assessments for activity providers and risk assessments for equipment providers
  • Traffic, crowd, waste and environmental management arrangements
  • Emergency procedures

Your health and safety responsibilities

If you organise a public event, you are responsible for the:

  • health, safety and welfare of the people that attend
  • employees and volunteers running the event
  • anyone else who might be affected

You will have the same responsibilities for both volunteers and employees under The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and related regulations.

There’s lots of guidance on how to organise events safely.  These are some of the most common guides.  Please use the links below:

Venue capacity and emergency exits

You will need to work out the maximum number of people your event venue can take safely. This will have a bearing on how many emergency exits you need.  As well as what you should provide in the way of:

  • catering
  • toilets
  • facilities for people with disabilities

If your event will take place in a permanent building, the venue providers may be able to give you details of its maximum capacity.

You will need to draw up a detailed site plan that shows the location of any structures like:

  • stages
  • seating
  • sound and light towers
  • catering
  • sales areas

The remaining floor space will be available for the visitors to the event.  For a standing crowd, it is normal to allow 0.5m2 of floor space per person when working out the number of people your venue can take safely.

Floor space isn’t the only consideration in determining how many people your site can take safely. You also need to work out how long it would take to evacuate the premises should an emergency occur.

In practice it takes one minute for 85 to 90 people to pass through a metre width of escape route. Though it could take longer if the route leading away from the exit narrows. Or includes a sharp turn that could slow people down.  You should also work out how long the evacuation would take if one of the escape routes is blocked.  You need to be sure that there would be enough exits remaining to allow people to escape quickly and safely.

If you wouldn’t be able to evacuate everyone in the appropriate time you will need to either reduce the numbers attending, install extra exits. Or choose a different venue.

Also bear in mind that:

  • You must make provision for the safe evacuation of disabled people.
  • In open field sites uneven ground or steep slopes can increase the risk of slipping, tripping or falling. 
  • Slopes can also provide better views, which mean they can also be overcrowded.
  • If you are using an existing venue, you still need to check whether there are enough facilities for the numbers you are expecting to attend the event.

Marquee event safety

If you are going to use a marquee or a tent for your event, you will need to carry out a full detailed risk assessment before the marquee is used.  It will also need to be checked by a competent person when it is being put up and again once it is in place.

Here are some things to think about when using a tent or marquee for your event:

  • Make sure you use a reputable company that will put up and take down the marquee for you.
  • Check on underground utilities such as gas and electricity by contacting Streetworks. The marquee needs to be big enough for the number of people who will be using it. Will they be standing or seated?  Seating takes up more space.
  • If your marquee has guy ropes and tent pegs, they need to be clearly marked to prevent people from tripping on them.
  • Will the location of your marquee affect other permanent buildings on the site or nearby residential areas?
  • Any tent or marquee needs to be suitable for the weather conditions.  Does your event site have strong prevailing winds?
  • Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service will need to inspect the marquee before use to check the fire exits.
  • You will need enough room around the outside of the marquee for people to safely exit and for emergency vehicles to attend should an emergency occur.

Amusements, attractions and fairgrounds at events

Attractions are usually supplied by specialist contractors such as

  • fairground rides
  • inflatable bouncy castles
  • bungee jumping

You will need to be satisfied that the contractors:

  • are competent
  • comply with any safety requirements for their attractions
  • have the appropriate insurance, licences and certification

You may also want to check whether the operator is a member of a relevant trade organisation.

You will need to think about these things if your event will include attractions:

  • They should not block access routes or cause congestion.
  • They need to be located away from overhead obstructions, such as power cables.
  • There should be fencing to prevent unauthorised access to any hazardous areas.
  • There will need to be space for queuing and spectators.
  • The attractions need to be safely anchored in case of high winds.

If you are going to have a fairground or individual rides at your event, you need to make sure that you follow the Health and Safety Executive’s Guidance on safe practice for fairgrounds and amusement parks:

Event Catering

At most events catering contractors provide food and drink.  You will need to make sure they are suitably qualified and equipped to maintain food hygiene standards.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Fast food vans usually bring their own generators, which can be noisy.
  • You will need to contact our Public Protection and Business Support team if you are thinking about having a barbecue on site (0300 1234 212).
  • Catering areas will need to have access for supply vehicles and emergency services.
  • There will also need to be access to drinking water, drainage, lockable waste storage and dedicated toilet facilities with hot and cold water for food handlers.
  • Catering outlets must have appropriate fire fighting equipment.
  • If caterers are using liquefied petroleum gas as a fuel source, they must be competent to use the gas.  They shouldn’t store more than 200kg of it.  The gas must be stored securely where the public can’t access it. Suitable fire extinguishers will need to be provided in the storage area.

You can also contact our Public Protection team on 0300 1234 212 for more advice on catering and food hygiene. 

Useful documents

Drinking Water

Drinking water is important at outdoor events where people can easily become dehydrated. All events need to provide access to adequate supplies of clean water.

Ideally the water for your event should be provided by mains-piped supply.  If this isn’t possible, you can use clean, properly maintained portable water tanks instead. 

If you are using an existing water supply, you will need to make sure it is suitable for human consumption.  Just because there’s a tap doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is safe.

As a general rule, you will need one water point per 3,000 visitors and one water point per 10 caterers.

Water points must have clear access, be clearly marked, be lit at night and have self closing taps.  The ground around the water point should be well drained.  If it’s not, you will need to take steps to deal with ground saturation.

Bite-size guides

We have a range of bite-size guides available to purchase, enabling you to get your business idea off the ground. These include:

Useful documents / Information

Please use the link below to access some further information regarding the health and safety for particular event activities.

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