If you are the event organiser you are responsible for ensuring that appropriate health and safety precautions are in place.

You will need to carry out a risk assessment to determine how people could be harmed during the event itself, as well as event set up and set down, and the precautions needed to protect them. The extent of the risk assessment depends on the size and complexity of the event.

As a minimum, you need to be sure that those attending the event know what to do in the event of a fire, an emergency or first aid incident and make sure that they can evacuate quickly in an emergency. If you have stewards you need to make sure they know these arrangements.

If you need advice please contact a Health and Safety Adviser or a Fire Safety Officer in good time. The Fire Safety Officer needs to approve certain activities, such as the use of candles, and can advise on areas such as occupancy limits. If you do not get this information early it may affect your event.

Security risk assessment

If you are planning a large scale event with more than 250 participants you will need to carry out a security risk assessment. Large events at the University of Essex are defined as:

  • Specific one-off or scheduled events on campus expected to attract or be attended by more than 250 people.
  • Specific, one off or scheduled events of reputational importance.

Large events are not considered to be activities that take place as part of “business as usual” at the University such as lectures and seminars. The usual, daily security plans will be followed for all of these types of activities.

Contact the Security Manager, Marc Lee (marclee@essex.ac.uk for the Colchester Campus or southsec@essex.ac.uk for Southend Campus) two weeks before the event date to determine the security threat level and the University’s security response. The security risk assessment should be reviewed two days before the event to ensure the threat level and response is still appropriate.

Event planning and risk assessment

If you are organising an event on one of the Colchester Campus squares or grounds you will need to complete an Events Booking Form and forward it to the EMS helpdesk.

For small straightforward events, there are risk assessments available in the resource area. These have been designed so that you can use them for a group of similar events. Events include seminars, small receptions, networking events, stalls and presentations.

Event safety plan

To help event organisers further, a blank event safety plan document is available to assist in the planning and delivering the event. It records who is in the event team, venue and site design, welfare, medical arrangements, emergency planning and security, communication, transport, contractors and other service providers. It also includes event activities that make up your event. You may wish to add or remove sections to suit your event profile.

The event organiser also needs to make sure the health and safety arrangements are in place and implemented on the day of the event.

Public Liability insurance

If you will be using a contractor or supplier to deliver part or all of your event you will need to ensure the relevant party has Public Liability insurance. External speakers visiting the University may also be required to have sufficient insurance. Please read our guidance on Public Liability insurance (.pdf) for further information.

Emergency procedures

Make sure that anyone in charge of groups of visitors or delegates knows the emergency evacuation and first aid procedures for their location. Show them:

  • the nearest fire exit and alternative exit
  • the nearest fire alarm call point and how to raise the alarm in the event of a fire or emergency
  • where the fire assembly point is
  • how to contact patrol/security staffpatrol/security staffpatrol/security staff (for first aid or in an emergency) and other key people involved in the event

If you use a first aid provider they must provide you with a full and accurate record of patient care at your event. It is important to have this information to assist with accident investigation or in dealing with insurance claims. It is strongly recommended that first aid providers complete the University's incident report form and give it to the event organiser, who in turn forwards to HSAS in the usual way.

Persons in charge of visitors, groups, rooms or areas are responsible for ensuring that everyone within their control evacuates. They should make everyone aware of what to do in the event of a fire by using the fire safety briefing form.

If any visitors have a physical disability and you are not sure how to help them to evacuate safely, contact patrol/security staffpatrol/security staffpatrol/security staff.

Larger and complex events

For events that are large or complex, Event Essex and University's Events team can help you plan and deliver it. These types of event need careful planning and coordination to ensure the health and safety arrangements are adequate. For example, events could have a significant number of visitors attending requiring crowd management, be over more than one day, require overnight accommodation on campus or be held in a range of different locations. They could also have a variety of activities happening at once or have a significant number of groups attending.

If you want to organise any potentially dangerous activities, you must consult the HSAS and the Estate Management section first. Examples of potentially dangerous activities are abseiling off the Towers, using the lakes or open flames for entertainment and firework displays. Make sure you do this well in advance because a significant amount of time may be needed to plan it and ensure it can go ahead.If you are organising an event on one of the Colchester campus Squares or grounds you will need to complete an Events Booking Form and forward it to the EMS helpdesk.

To assist with planning and managing large events the University has access to the Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and Other Events guidance. Contact HSAS for login information.

*MUTA is UK's only trade association dedicated to marquees, tents and temporary structures. The Association works to improve standards in the industry through its accreditation schemes.

Using contractors

If you hire someone to provide entertainment or help you with setting up an event, you need to make reasonable enquiries to ensure they are competent and won't put those attending the event at risk. You should advise any contractor that they need to comply with our fire and safety requirements when on site. If the contractor is doing activities that could foreseeable put others at risk, you will need to:

  • check that they have public liability insurance to a minimum value of £5 million and take a copy of their insurance certificate
  • ask them to show you their risk assessment and safety precautions, if necessary ask a health and safety adviser to check them for you
  • check what training and experience they have
  • speak to someone else who has used them, if necessary ask for references

If you are planning activities that may present an increased risk or you have any questions about insurance, contact the Insurance Officer (Essex users only).

The HSE guidance on electrical safety for entertainers is a useful leaflet to signpost to entertainers you are considering hiring for events, or hirers of our venues who may want to use entertainers. It sets out basic measures they should take to help control the electrical risks from the use of such equipment.

Food safety

The preparation of food presents significant risks if good hygiene measures are not followed. A serious food safety incident could affect many people, impacting on the University's reputation and potentially resulting in prosecution. If you are organising events that will include the serving of food and drink, you will need to ensure legal requirements for food safety are met.

Small-scale food preparation for social purposes, such as a small group of people bringing in some cakes or sandwiches to celebrate a birthday, falls outside the scope of the food safety legislation.


It is strongly recommended that catering is arranged through Essex Food Essex Food Essex Food or Event Essex, as this will ensure that statutory requirements for food safety are met.

Using outside caterers

If you wish to use an outside caterer, you must ask for evidence to ensure that:

  • they are registered with the Local Authority
  • they have public liability insurance in place
  • staff handling food are trained in food hygiene
  • they are taking measures to protect people who may have allergies to certain foods
  • the work equipment they provide will be safe

You should also establish whether the food or drink needs to be held at a specific temperature, if it is not to be consumed immediately. If event organisers are serving the food they will need to apply good standards of food hygiene.

Preparation of food by event organisers or participants

Pre-cooked items can be purchased from supermarkets. If event organisers are serving the food they will need to apply good standards of food hygiene. For small events the NHS guidance on food safety can be followed.

Using marquees

You must ensure that marquees are hired from an organisation that is a member of MUTA is the UK's only trade association dedicated to marquees, tents and temporary structures. The Association works to improve standards in the industry through its accreditation schemes.

Arrangements for erecting and dismantling marquees should be made with Estate and Campus Services, who will ensure competent contractors are used and marquee meets safety (including fire safety) standards. They will also ensure control of contractor vehicle movement and monitor marquee contractors by Estates to ensure they behave safely.

Where the marquee is to be in place for an extended period a regular check on its stability should be undertaken. Where there are reasons to be concerned (e.g. because of high winds), the contractor should be asked to carry out an additional check the marquee’s stability prior to use.

Further information

Bouncy castles/inflatables

Serious incidents have occurred where inflatables have collapsed or blown away in windy conditions. It is therefore essential that you hire from a reputable supplier and the inflatable has either a numbered PIPA tag or an ADiPs declaration of compliance (DoC). You can use their websites to check safety tests have been carried out. HSE safety advice on bouncy castles and other play inflatables must also be followed.

Further information

Arrow symbol
Contact us
Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing
Telephone: 01206 872944