How To Manage Risks When Planning Your Event

A risk management plan identifies all potential risks that may arise from holding an event.

corporate events

Risk management is an essential aspect of planning any event. A risk may include anything that could harm another person, damage equipment, infrastructure or the event site, or harm the future of the event organising committee and the event itself.

To plan accordingly, event organisers should document risks and list the steps they will take to reduce or mitigate identified risks.

“Managing risk for internal events such as conferences, meetings, workshops and awards evenings is less onerous because these events are held on premises which already provide for the health and safety of people at work under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.” says Ashley Bauer, owner of Hemisphere Emergency Preparation Consulting. “However there are several factors which must be taken into account, particularly when dealing with large numbers of people.”

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Risk checklist

Bauer lists the following as examples:

  • Have a floor plan of the venue with evacuation routes.
  • Get approval for any temporary structure.
  • Check that electricity supply points at the venue are all compliant, including any temporary electricity installation.
  • Get a certificate of acceptability from caterers if food is to be served.
  • Ensure that audio-visual equipment suppliers are compliant.

“We advise clients to plan events in stages and phases, and to ensure that risk management is part of the process from day one, and is documented,” says Bauer.

“A risk management plan is not something that can be tacked onto an event plan once every other aspect has been planned. When that happens, risk is often ignored.”

Public Liability insurance

All businesses should have public liability insurance to cover them against damages that they are liable to pay, following incidents which occur during the course of, or in connection with, the business. This insurance provides for death, illness or injury to other people and accidental damage to their property.

“In the case of events, public liability insurance is usually taken by both the venue owner and the event organiser,” says Bauer.

“In the case of internal events, where spouses are invited for example, the event organiser must ensure that the venue is suitable for the public and that all measures have been taken to mitigate risk. Any suppliers to the event, must be covered by their own public liability insurance.”

The price of non-compliance


The biggest penalty for non-compliance, says Bauer, is that the event will be shut down, usually at great cost to the organisers. Because of municipal regulations, there may also be penalties and fines involved.

Importantly, company directors can be held to account and suffer prosecution and financial losses in their personal capacity if they are found to be negligent in terms of compliance with health and safety.

“Section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act holds the CEO accountable and responsible for the health and safety of everyone in the workplace,” says Bauer. “This includes visitors and contractors.”

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Failure to meet the requirements of the Act could lead to a fine of up to R50 000, or one year’s imprisonment. This excludes any civil claims that might be actioned as a result of proven negligence. To protect themselves, they need to ensure that there is a basic safety management programme in place, and that there is compliance with the Act.

“To comply with the Health and Safety Act, the law assumes you will comply with other safety legislation, such as the National Building Regulations and Standards Act and, in the case of events, the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act.”

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