Event organisers have a tough job. Planning, organising and managing events of any size is no mean feat. It takes hours of meticulous preparation, endless checklists, strict budgeting and many sleepless nights to pull off a successful event. This is under normal circumstances. Throw a curve-ball like a global pandemic into the mix, and the job becomes even more challenging.
As we continue to learn more and more about Covid-19, and adjust our lifestyles accordingly, the events industry must also adapt to new regulations and new procedures. The fluidity of the Covid-19 landscape means that you must constantly be aware of requirements from the World Health Organisation and the UK government, as they pertain to events and functions. This ultimately involves additional work for the events organiser but it is unfortunately unavoidable. The more precautions that are taken, the safer and ultimately more successful your event will be.
The following checklist is designed to highlight aspects that should be considered when you’re planning and managing your next event.
Events Checklist for COVID
A critical step in planning any event is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. As the organiser, it is your responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the attendees, insofar as it pertains to the event itself. A risk assessment will help you to identify specific factors that could possibly cause harm to the attendees, or facilitate the transmission of a disease or virus, like Covid-19. It is a legal requirement for any business, and should take into account everyone involved in the event, including but not limited to, staff, performers, caterers and guests. If you don’t conduct a risk assessment that includes Covid-19 factors, or you fail to implement measures to reduce the risk of the virus, you may find yourself in breach of the health and safety regulations.
The following points should be incorporated into your standard risk assessment document.
The size of the venue should be sufficient so as to meet health & safety standards according to the number of guests anticipated, but must now also ensure enough space to comply with social distancing requirements. Guidelines currently state a two metre distance should be kept between people at all times and where possible.. The type of event will play a part in determining how much space is needed.
- For catered sit-down events, such as weddings and banquets, more tables will be required than for similar events pre-Covid, due to the fact that guests must be seated further apart with fewer seats per table. There must also be more space in between tables, thus more floor space will be needed.
- For more casual events that don’t require seating, there should be adequate space for guests to mingle while keeping the necessary distance between each other.
Other factors to consider when assessing the venue include:
- Restrictions on the number of people allowed at a gathering or function – This will change as the Covid-19 risk lessens. Organisers should ensure that they keep up-to-date with these restrictions and changes.
- Ventilation – There is less risk of transmission in the open air, than there is indoors. Where possible, doors and windows of indoor venues should be kept open to facilitate the good ventilation of the venue. An HVAC system is effective in increasing the circulation of fresh, outdoor air, but the re-circulation mode should not be used. If the event is taking place in a marquee, remove or roll up the sides of the structure while the event is happening. The use of ceiling or stand-alone fans should be avoided.
- Access points – Having a few points of entry to and exit from the venue will help to alleviate possible crowding.
- Ablution facilities – Social distancing should be observed in these areas. Temporary demarcations should be laid out so that guests know where to stand when queuing. It could also be effective to restrict the flow of people through these facilities, on a one-in, one-out basis. This could be controlled by staff, or by the appropriate signage both outside and inside the facilities.
First and foremost, you must ensure that none of the staff working at the event is showing any symptoms of Covid-19. This applies not just to your staff, but also to any third-party staff such as caterers, speakers or entertainers. If they are symptomatic, they must not be permitted to work but should rather remain at home. They should be provided with adequate information about the symptoms of Covid-19 so that they can advise accordingly.
Staff will have additional responsibilities when it comes to running events during this Covid-19 pandemic, and it is up to the events organiser to determine whether or not more staff is required to ease the workload. Staffing should be considered within the parameters of the risk assessment.
- Training – Ensure that your team is up-to-date with current restrictions and requirements as they relate to events and gatherings of groups of people. This also applies to staff of any companies that you may have outsourced aspects of the event to, including entertainment, catering companies etc. Everyone should be well-versed in how to minimise the spread of the virus.
- Face covering – Staff must be encouraged to wear face coverings throughout the event. They should also encourage the guests to do so, specifically in areas where social distancing may be difficult to maintain.
- Sanitising stations – These should be set up at various locales around the venue, particularly at entrance and exit points. Staff members should ensure that the guests sanitise their hands when entering or leaving the venue. Informative signage in bathrooms must highlight the government guidance with regards to hand washing, which is to wash for at least twenty seconds. Bottles of hand sanitiser can be placed at other strategic positions throughout the venue: on the bar counter, on tables or in any other breakaway areas. All sanitiser should be at least 60% alcohol. You could have staff allocated to walking through the guests with spray bottles of sanitiser, to encourage regular hand sanitising.
- Screening – If possible, guests should be screened prior to gaining access to the venue, to determine if they have any Covid-19 symptoms, or if they have been in contact with any infected persons. A few simple questions will provide the information that you need and won’t be too time-consuming. A record of these questions and answers should be kept to assist with tracing should it be required.
- Social distancing – Government guidelines require a two metre distance be kept between people, or one metre if safe to do so. Staff must try where possible to enforce this among the guests. It won’t always be easy, but adequate signage displayed around the venue will also act to make guests aware of this requirement. Announcements can be made at strategic times during the event proceedings, to remind the guests of the two metre requirement. In areas where guests may need to queue, for example at the bathrooms, a staff member can be in place to ensure that a two metre gap is kept between people.
- First Aid – In addition to the standard equipment and first aider on duty, there should be an allocated space where any guest or member of staff who shows signs of illness can go to be attended to and isolated.
Food and Beverage
If your event involves catering of any kind, or bar service, there are various measures to put in place to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Table Service – Staff should serve all food to the guests. Buffet-style meals are discouraged, unless each station can be manned by a member of staff and guests don’t help themselves. For more casual events, you could consider pre-packed food that has been individually portioned, thus reducing the amount of contact.
- Cutlery – Cutlery and condiments can be provided to each individual guest when their food is served, rather than being generally available on tables.
- Waitrons and bar staff – Waitrons and bar staff must regularly sanitise their hands, and must wear face coverings, especially when interacting with guests. Assign each waitron their own area, or tables, that they are to attend to for the duration of the event. If there is more than one bar staff, each should have their own section of the bar to avoid excessive contact with the counter.
Guests should be encouraged to remain seated at their tables as far as possible throughout the meal service, to minimise movement.
Sound and Entertainment
If your event is one that involves live entertainment, speeches or other performances, there are certain additional things to consider with regards to minimising the spread of the virus and maintaining a safe space for the guests.
- Audience participation – People should be discouraged from singing along to the music, or cheering. Raising your voice can increase the aerosol transmission of particles and potentially put more people at risk.
- Background music – This must be kept within reasonable limits so that guests don’t have to shout to be heard.
- Sound system – Use a PA system to avoid speakers having to raise their voices to be heard.
- Performer placing – Musicians or performers sharing the same stage or floor space should be positioned side-by-side or back-to-back rather than facing each other.
- Microphones – Avoid the sharing of microphones, or other equipment. If multiple speeches are to be given, and microphones are limited, sufficient time should be allowed in between speeches to allow for the equipment to be sufficiently cleaned and sanitised.
- Equipment handling – Bands or performers should handle their own equipment and props where possible.
- Hand washing – All performers and speakers should wash or sanitise their hands before handling any equipment that is not theirs.
- Social distancing – A gap of at least two meters should be kept between the front of the stage, or area where the performances or speeches are taking place, and the guests. Alternatively, or if this is not possible, a clear screen can be erected between the speakers and the audience.
- Ventilation – Ensure that the area of the venue in which the speech or performance is taking place is well-ventilated.
Communication and Signage
It is crucial that every attempt is made to educate the event attendees of the requirements around face coverings, social distancing, signs and symptoms of Covid-19, as well as any other health and safety information relating to this disease, that you as the organiser deem relevant or necessary. This information can be communicated in various ways, either before the event or at the venue itself. You may want to consider the following for your event:
- Communicate with the guests – Do this by email, text message or phone call before the event takes place, reminding guests of the symptoms of Covid-19, and encouraging them to stay home if they feel ill or are showing any of these signs. One communication may not be sufficient. Multiple communications can be used to effectively get your message across. Vary the method of communication to make sure that you reach all the guests at least once.
- Announcements – Make announcements periodically during the event. These should be short and to the point, reminding guests to wash their hands, maintain physical distancing and wear their face coverings when possible.
- Responsibility – Through your communication with the guests, remind them that they share responsibility for their own safety. They should take every precaution to protect themselves, and others, from Covid-19 by following all the government guidelines and any other requirements specified by the event organiser.
- Hand washing – Ensure that proper instructions for hand washing, in accordance with government or WHO guidelines, are displayed at all hand-washing stations.
- Signage – Display adequate signage at strategic points around the venue, both inside and in outdoor spaces, that highlights the requirements for face coverings, social distancing and any other Covid-19 preventative measures relevant to your event that you wish to include. Ensure that all signage is inclusive of all cultures and/or languages of the guests attending your event.
- Record-keeping – For private events, the event organiser must keep an accurate record of the attendees of the venue, including contact details, for at least 21 days after the event has taken place. This will be needed for tracking and tracing purposes, on the off-chance that a guest tests positive for the virus within this period.
Having a clean venue is an important aspect of any event, but it’s even more crucial now during the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure the safety of the guests and reduce the chance of the transmission of the virus. In addition to following your standard cleaning procedures, you should pay special attention to the following areas:
- Before the event – Ensure that the venue is cleaned extensively prior to the arrival of the guests. Advise staff to avoid touching common surfaces that have been cleaned, or if they do, to wipe them down afterwards. You should be confident that the venue is 100% safe for the guests.
- Commonly touched surfaces – Thoroughly clean and disinfect items and surfaces that are likely to be touched by many people. This includes things like counter-tops, light switches, door handles, taps and toilet flushers.
- Spot cleaning – Spot cleans of all commonly touched surfaces and items should be done at regular intervals throughout the event.
- Sanitisers and soap – Ensure that sanitiser and hand-washing stations are stocked at all times throughout the event.
Implementation and Review
Once you have revised your risk assessment document, you can implement any changes that you feel are necessary for your event. As the event draws near, you may find that additional changes need to be made to the document. This could be as a result of new concerns that come to light, or because the pandemic situation may be easing and restrictions are becoming more relaxed. It is important that you keep up-to-date and regularly consult the government, county council and WHO websites to determine best practices.
As the event organiser, you need to continually monitor the situation during the event, to ensure that staff is carrying out their duties safely and within the guidelines that you have provided them with. Have a checklist that you can use so that you don’t miss any important elements. Make a note of anything that comes up during the event that you may need to change on your risk assessment document before the next event.
If you have applied your awareness and common sense in drawing up a risk assessment, and your staff knows their roles in implementing this plan, there is no reason why you should not have a successful, safe event.
- COVID and Your Wedding
- Social Distancing Furniture & Crowd Control Hire During COVID
- Social Distancing Tips for Events
- Making Informed Decisions about Coronavirus and your Event
- Stretch Barrier Hire for Social Distancing Management