Putting Crowd Safety First at Events

There is no doubt about it, motorsport is an exhilarating and stimulating sport to watch and for many, attendance at a motorsport event, is a highlight of their year. The term ‘motorsport’ covers an extremely wide range of events, from the large circuit, international Formula 1 races to the small races organised by local motor clubs, but at all of these, crowd safety should be a primary consideration. Motorsport is inherently dangerous but this is part of the thrill, the sometimes-difficult task of the event organiser is to find the balance between the buzz of possible risk and the safety of all those involved.

To some extent motorsport drivers and riders are responsible for their own safety but responsibility for those who have come to support or watch sits squarely with the event organiser. Motorsport crowd safety and crowd management are complicated and reactive issues; although no two events are ever the same and the combination of elements that could contribute to crowd risk cannot be precisely predicted, crowd safety must be paramount in the mind of any motorsport event organiser. We have answered some key motorsport crowd safety and crowd management questions.
crowd safety

What is the difference between crowd safety and crowd management?

Although there is a clear relationship between motorsport crowd safety and crowd management, these are different things and should be considered both as discrete and interrelated issues. Crowd safety is the control of risk to crowds of people through a planned system of risk management. Crowd management is the consideration of specific hazards such as crushing, trampling, aggressive behaviour and dangerous behaviour. In other words crowd management encompasses any problems that can occur when large groups of people are together. For example, crowd safety might consider the placing of ‘no go’ areas around a course where there was more danger of vehicles leaving the circuit; crowd management would look at the possible crush of a large crowd trying to leave the site of a bad accident.

Crowd Safety

Who is responsible for crowd safety?

According the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the responsibility for crowd safety lies with ‘the organiser’. This may be more than one person and both contractual agreements and informal arrangements should make this clear because, should something go wrong, somebody will be taken to account for the incident and the legal implications can be very serious.

‘… the ‘organiser’ is taken to be anyone who has the prime responsibility for the event.’ – HSE (Managing Crowds Safely)

Nobody can eliminate risk completely, especially at risk-inherent events like motorsports, however the event organiser(s) has a duty to ensure crowd safety.

Note: whilst there are aspects of crowd safety that may be contracted out, the event organiser retains overall responsibility and is expected to check the credentials of all contractors to ensure that requirements are met.
crowd management

What are the implications of poor crowd safety?

The bottom line is that poor crowd safety can lead to accidents, injuries and even deaths. When a motorsport event is unsafe it is not just the crowd that is at risk, staff, competitors and volunteers are all possible casualties. When an incident does occur the event organiser will be expected to answer a range of questions about their assessment and control of risk for the event. All accidents must be reported under the RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). In the unfortunate event of a fatality, there will be a number of investigators including police, the Health and Safety Executive and/or the local authority. Should the event safety plan, event emergency plan and the competence of event personnel, including medical personnel, not meet the requirements of investigators, prosecutions and even imprisonments are possible.

How can risk assessment contribute to crowd safety at motorsports?

Risk assessment is an essential contributor to crowd safety and is a legal requirement. As such, it should always be carried out in detail and carefully documented. Effective risk assessment will consider the possible harm to all people involved, including drivers, riders, employees, spectators and volunteers. It is not enough to merely assess risk, against each possible risk there should be an explanation of how it is going to be controlled. It is dangerous to view risk assessment as a box-ticking exercise; effective risk assessment will allow you to look at steps you are already taking and make informed decisions about whether or not you should be doing more.
crowd control


How many people attend motorsport events?

Over 4,500 motorsport events take place in the UK every year. The attendance numbers for these vary widely, for example the 2016 Silverstone race weekend attendance was around 350,000 and they had to think carefully about safety implications when they expanded their crowd standing capacity by 10,000. They achieved the additional space by moving fencing rather than crowding more people into existing space. It stands to reason that smaller circuits will have lower attendance but even the smallest of crowds necessitates the need for careful crowd management.

How might crowd reaction impact on crowd management?

A large part of crowd management depends on an understanding and prediction of how a crowd might react in a stressful situation. For example in the event of a motorsport accident, some spectators might try to get closer to either take photographs or try to help, whereas some might try to move away (typically where there is perceived danger). There exists a wealth of crowd behaviour theories that can help to predict crowd management needs but the benefit of experience should not be ignored. A motorsport event risk assessment should always include detailed consideration of possible crowd reaction and evacuation requirements.
crowd safety management
In some ways motorsport events are no different to any other event where members of the public gather. They do however have certain elements of inherent risk that are a necessary, and to some extent, welcome part of their running and it is the responsibility of the event organiser to ensure that as many crowd safety and crowd management risks are mitigated as possible.

One essential aspect of motorsport crowd safety is medical cover and equipment. At MDD our experienced team have wide-ranging knowledge and experience of working at motorsport events. Get in touch today to speak to our specialist consultation team about all of your medical and safety equipment needs.
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