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Maintaining safety standards for Christmas charity events

Christmas charity events will be commonplace throughout December as the big day approaches, but organisations looking to host fundraising activities also need to maintain a keen focus on health and safety.

Charitable organisations and not-for-profit enterprises still have the same obligations and legal responsibilities as any other organisation when it comes to health and safety - making it vitally important that risk considerations are the top priority when staging Christmas charity events.

Everybody wants to stay safe and enjoy themselves this Christmas, and Aviva has compiled a series of guidelines for charities and not-for-profit organisations to help them asses and manage the risks associated with staging festive fundraising events.

When such events take place, it is the responsibility of the organisers to safeguard the wellbeing of any persons who may be affected by them in any way, including staff, volunteers, participants and spectators.

Phil Grace, liability risk manager at Aviva, commented: "Any special event at Christmas that is not considered 'business as usual' poses additional liability risks to the organisers. Whether a fashion event, talent contest, craft fair or Santa's Grotto, the primary concern is to make the event as safe as possible for all concerned."

Event organisers are obliged to carry out a thorough risk assessment to establish any potential hazards that may crop up and then devise ways to mitigate the associated risks.

Recommended steps to be taken during the process include sketching a plan of the site detailing the location of the various activities, as well as exit routes and car parking. This clarifies how the event will be organised.

It is also the event organiser's responsibility to make sure that all legislation relevant to the activity has been complied with.

At this time of year, when the weather can create dangerous and icy conditions, the risk of slip and trip accidents come to the fore, so this aspect requires careful consideration.

Many Christmas charity events will provide hot food and drink for guests, and this can also bring its own unique risks which need to be assessed and safety precautions put in place.

Unpredictable weather and an increased chance of snow means organisers must have contingency plans and account for the fact that the site may need to be evacuated in the event of an emergency.

With the dark nights drawing in, adequate signage and lighting is required to help people access the site and move around it safely.

For larger events, a suitably qualified person should be given the responsibility to act as Safety Officer, with all the relevant safety arrangements checked thoroughly both before and during the event.

Staffing levels should be relative to the size of the event, and all stewards and marshals should be able to communicate easily, using the most convenient tools; either radios or mobile phones. Effective communication can facilitate a much quicker and safer response in the event of an emergency.

Waste disposal is a further consideration for event organisers, and a sufficient number of rubbish bins should be provided on the site for the storage and disposal of litter. Remember, it's better to recycle as much as possible.

If all of the above health and safety aspects are taken into consideration, and proper insurance cover is in place, then Christmas charity events are far more likely to be a safe and enjoyable experience for the organisers, staff and attendees, allowing all concerned to enjoy the festivities.

Aviva's new risk management guide is available to all charities and not for profit organizations at  ADNFCR-2134-ID-800274470-ADNFCR