Simply Safety - manage the liability risks of summer outdoor events, warns Aviva

Article date: 3 August 2010

With British summertime well and truly here, Aviva – as part of its Simply Safety campaign – is advising businesses and organisations about the importance of managing the additional liability risks associated with hosting an outdoor event.

Phil Grace, liability risk manager, Aviva, said: “Any special event that is not considered ‘business as usual’ poses additional liability risks to the organisers. The primary concern is to make an event as safe as possible for all concerned.

“Sketch a plan of the site showing the position of the activities, the entrance and exit routes and car parking. This will be useful in explaining how the event will be organized.

“Whether you are planning a village fete, regular events such as annual carnivals, or larger events involving hundreds or even thousands of people in attendance, a risk assessment should always be undertaken in advance to properly assess the additional risks.

The assessment should include identification of all possible hazards that could occur and also include how the risk will be controlled. In particular, event organisers should consider:

  • Stands and stalls.
  • Marquees, stages and caterers stands/tents.
  • Displays and parades, especially those involving animals, vehicles or special attractions.
  • Bouncy castles and children’s amusement rides.
  • Control of people and vehicles.
  • Action in the event of an emergency.

Phil continued: “ Event organisers should also request risk assessments from third parties such as contractors and participants and, where appropriate, method statements for the activities they will carry out. 

“Contingency planning is just as important as risk assessment. Event organisers need to consider what could go wrong on the day and draw up a plan to deal with the emergency.” 

The plan should consider the following key points:

1. What to do in the event of a fire, accident, bomb alert, medical emergency, adverse weather or any need to evacuate the site. Put measures in place to help deal with any crisis.

2. Provide equipment for putting out small fires throughout the site and provide enough first aid provision to be adequate for the number of people expected to attend the event.

3. Plan ahead to allow time to carry out the risk assessments and obtain specialist advice where necessary.

4. All interested parties, including police, fire safety, local authority and first aid should meet to discuss issues relevant to the event but one person should be in overall charge of the event.

5. In the case of larger events, a suitably qualified person should act as Safety Officer and safety arrangements should be checked prior to opening and throughout the event.

6. Ensure the site is large enough for all the activities planned with adequate circulation space for the public expected to attend.

7. If necessary obtain the permission of the landowner. It is usual for the organiser’s insurer to agree to indemnify the landowner in the event that a claim is made against them.

8. Under the Licensing Act 2003, a Premises Licence will be required for certain regulated entertainment (live and recorded music, dancing, plays, films and sporting events) and the sale of alcohol1. Breaking the terms of the licence could result in a large fine or a prison sentence².

9. Small events lasting no longer than 96 hours and having no more than 500 people attending may apply for a Temporary Event Notice to cover the event³.

10. Event organisers can also be held legally liable for the costs or damages for any injuries which may occur. Public liability insurance will cover this risk:

  • If the event is being held on public open space or the highway, insurance with an indemnity of £5 million is required.
  • When using specialist contractors, always check they have their own public liability insurance and obtain a copy.
  • If something does go wrong, full details must be recorded and reported without delay.

11. Ensure there are an appropriate number of stewards for control of the site and the public. Make sure they are fully briefed prior to the event and easily identifiable ie by wearing distinctive clothing. Major events should have independent specialist security personnel to organise and maintain security of the site.

12. Adequate provision for toilets should be made for the number of people, including the disabled, expected to attend the event.  

13. When using temporary units, provide direction signs and lighting if the event continues after dark. It may be necessary to service the units to keep them clean and hygienic throughout the event.

14. Provide an adequate number of litter bins around the site and make arrangements to empty regularly and store/dispose of the rubbish and all litter after the event. Recycling should be carried out wherever possible.

Examples of accidents that have previously occurred at outdoor events:

  • A 48-year-old man died in hospital after he collapsed while taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride in June this year. Ambulance staff resuscitated the man after he collapsed going up Ditchling Beacon, outside Brighton, but was taken to hospital in Brighton, where he later died4.
  • A 20ft fireball blasted across a group of spectators at a traditional flaming barrel-carrying festival at Ottery St Mary in Devon last November5. At least a dozen people were injured, after someone allegedly threw an aerosol can into the burning tar.
  • Every year, the last Monday in May sees Gloucestershire folk – and visitors – running down Cooper’s Hill in pursuit of a 7lb Double Gloucester cheese. The hill is known for a gradient that in points is one in two, or in some places one in one. 58 people were injured in the 2009 Gloucestershire cheese-rolling event, and 11 taken to hospital. They included two spinal injuries and a dislocated shoulder. One spectator was injured when they fell out of a tree.6

To download the Simply Safety factsheet visit: and type in the topic you would like help with or advice on.


Press office contact:
Heather Price Longden at Staniforth on 0161 919 8010 or Sally Leeman at Aviva’s press office on 01603 684225/07789 270677 

Notes to editors








  • Aviva is the world’s fifth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific
  • Aviva's main business activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion at 31 December 2009  
  • We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe  
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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2008

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