Why be so concerned about safety issues − aren't
they just something that gets in the way of what we really
want to be doing? The answer is that we all have a
responsibility, both legal and moral, to be sure
that our activities do not put ourselves or others
in danger −
that is, at unacceptable risk
of harm. This is of particular importance where people
gather at an event, as they will have a reasonable
expectation that proper consideration has been given
to their well-being, and any failing in safety could
affect many lives. Furthermore, we also have a
responsibility to protect the property of others from damage.
So, safety issues could be defined,
in the context of PA
systems, as the precautions that need to be taken in order to
reduce, to acceptably low levels, the likelihood of occurrences
that may result in harm to the performers, the audience or
anyone else in the vicinity, or which may result in damage to
We will only consider here protection against dangerous
occurrences that might arise from the presence or operation
of PA systems, lighting and related equipment. (Other aspects
of safety at an event, e.g. the provision of suitable
fire exits and competent stewards, are typically the
responsibility of others, such as the owner
of the venue or the event organisers.)
The information below is given in the form of quick
check-lists which cover the most likely causes of
dangerous incidents, though these lists
are by no means exhaustive. As a minimum, be certain to
comply with the Health and Safety Regulations and Guidance
applicable in your country and region.
An essential element in the maintenance of a safe environment
− both for staff and the general public −
is the carrying out of risk assessments. A risk assessment is a
formal procedure in which
hazards are identified and, for each
hazard, the likelihood and severity of harm is evaluated. The
results are recorded, along with details of any measures taken to
reduce the level of risk associated with each hazard. These
assessments must be repeated as necessary in the event of changed
circumstances, and in any case must be regularly reviewed.
No person should undertake any hazardous activity without
the risks having been assessed, taking into account the
competence of the person(s)
concerned, and having taken
appropriate action to reduce risks as necessary. As an
example, a risk assessment for a particular activity
might involve considering the following questions:
What kinds of things might go wrong, e.g. what
kinds of accidents or potentially dangerous occurrences
might there possibly be during the activity?
Could there be any 'secondary' or 'consequential' effects?
e.g. a falling speaker hitting a gantry whose
resulting movement might then create further hazards.
What is the likelihood of each primary and consequential
occurrence, taking into account measures already in place
to make it less likely?
For each possible occurrence, how many people could be affected?
How severe could the effect on those people be?
e.g. Could it cause death, a serious or minor injury,
a serious or lasting health problem?
Having considered the questions above, are the overall risks
judged to be sufficiently low to allow the activity to proceed
as currently planned?
If not, what steps must be taken to reduce the risks to a
suitably low level? For example, is it necessary to
modify the way the activity is to be done, by whom it is
to be done, when it is to be done, or to introduce any
additional precautions or safety measures?
The HSE publishes useful
information concerning safety at events in the UK.
This page provides a useful starting point, while
this page includes free downloadable PDF leaflets and other
The "Purple Guide" event safety handbook, previously produced
by the HSE, is now published by the Events Industry Forum (EIF)
and is available by subscription here.
(All are external links that open in a new window.)
- Use correct lifting, carrying and placing techniques
at all times.
- When working at height use appropriate safe access
equipment. Always ensure that the access equipment is
in good condition and is safely erected, before use.
Only use it in accordance with the manufacturer's
limits and guidelines.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate
to the work being undertaken (hard hat, knee pads,
safety harness, etc.).
- Ensure that all equipment is positioned (and if necessary,
properly secured) so as not to present a hazard by it
falling. Remember that
may be subject to substantial wind forces. Unsecured
speakers may be subject to movement due to vibration
caused by their operation.
- Only fly speakers that are
equipped with purpose-designed rigging points.
Ensure that the support points and all rigging materials
used are amply adequate for
the load (taking into account wind loading if outdoors).
- As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that
flown equipment be supported using rigging materials
and structures having a Safe Working Load
of at least 5 times the actual weight to be supported.
- Ensure that all cables
are routed and secured so as not to present a trip hazard.
(Gaffer tape is
invaluable for securing cables to floors.)
- Ensure that all speaker stands, lighting stands,
etc. are positioned so that their legs do not
present a trip hazard. If necessary, use waist-high
- Safety earths,
such as those within power distribution and supply
arrangements or that protect powered equipment,
must never be disconnected or 'lifted'. (See
- Mains-powered equipment
and mains cables must be maintained in good condition and
regularly checked for damage. Formal inspection and
testing to ensure continued electrical safety
(usually called PAT
testing) must be carried out at suitable intervals,
and the results retained as evidence of the equipment
being adequately maintained.
- Damaged or otherwise defective mains-powered equipment,
including mains cables, plugs, sockets, etc.,
must not be used until properly repaired and tested.
Remember that an in-date PAT-test label is not proof
that an item is still in a safe condition to use.
- All cables and other equipment used for the supply and
distribution of power, including the fixed supply
arrangements of the premises, must be adequate for the
current-demand of the
equipment to be connected.
- Repairs or modifications to equipment, including mains cables,
must be carried out only by competent persons in possession
of the appropriate tools and test equipment for the work.
For safety guidance on equipment testing and repair work in the UK, see
& Safety document indg354 (a PDF, opens in a new window).
- Never make any modification to hired equipment. Notify
the hire company in writing of any damage, faults or safety
concerns relating to their equipment − whether
or not the issue is believed to have existed at the
time of hiring.
- Make use of RCDs as appropriate.
(In some cases the source(s)
of supply may already be
adequately RCD protected, but this must not be assumed.)
- Check all RCDs at the recommended interval, using the
integral test button.
- Be aware of the location of power
isolation switches and/or
plugs and ensure that access to them is not obstructed,
to enable safe disconnection of equipment from power sources
in an emergency.
- When using equipment that requires an external
power supply unit,
use only genuine units precisely as advised by the equipment
manufacturer. Using another make or model of power unit may
create a safety hazard, even if its voltage and current
rating appear to be appropriate.
- To minimise shock risks when
are in use, all mixing equipment, mains-powered musical
instruments (and associated equipment) and the
equipment should preferably be supplied from the same phase.
If practicable, all mixing equipment should be supplied
from the same supply point as that on-stage equipment.
- Be familiar with the proper first-aid procedures for use
in the event of electric shock and burns.
- Ensure that the fixed electrical installation of the venue
is in a safe condition. Ideally, a relevant
and/or test certificate(s)
should be available.
- In the UK, fixed electrical installations should
comply with BS 7671
and temporary distribution systems for entertainment
purposes should comply with
Additional local requirements may be imposed in
connection with entertainment licence conditions.
- Alterations, additions or repairs to fixed electrical
installations or temporary distribution systems should
be carried out only by competent authorised persons in
possession of the appropriate tools and test equipment
for the work.
- In the UK, the Electricity at Work Regulations applies to
employers, employees, and self-employed persons. It can
be viewed at this external link Electricity
at Work Regulations (opens in a new window).
- Guidance for entertainers in the UK is provided by
HSE leaflet INDG 247, which can be viewed at this
external link: Electrical
Safety for Entertainers (a PDF, opens in a new window).
- Access to fire exits or fire-fighting equipment must not
be obstructed, e.g. by cables or equipment.
- Fire exit signs or emergency lighting facilities must not
be obscured or otherwise disabled.
- Appropriate fire extinguishers (e.g. suitable
for use on live electrical equipment) must be
available in the vicinity of equipment, flammable
materials and other fire hazards.
- All equipment and (where applicable) mains plugs
must be fitted with appropriately-rated
- Mains outlets and cables must not be
- All heat-producing equipment (such as amplifiers and
lanterns) must be adequately
ventilated and not located unduly close to flammable
- Be aware of the fire action procedures for the premises.
- Follow precisely the manufacturer's instructions for the
storage, handling and use of all pyrotechnic devices and
associated control equipment.
- Ensure that sound levels
do not reach values that could cause permanent damage to
hearing, taking into account the length of time that high
levels are present and how often the exposure is repeated
Sound Levels on the
- Guidance on UK legislation and on avoiding damaging
levels of exposure can be found on the website
Advice (external link, opens in a new window).
This safety information is provided for general guidance only, as
specific safety requirements may exist in certain situations. No
responsibility is accepted in the event of this information
proving incomplete or inadequate in any respect. All safety
advice and information provided must be interpreted in the
context of the legislation and official guidance applicable
to the country, district and local circumstances concerned.
Please note that this disclaimer is in addition to the
on the main contents page.
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This page last updated 27-Aug-2017.