SECURITY REQUIREMENTS FOR OUTDOOR EVENTS
The Executive Council asked LPA to investigate the security standards applicable to outdoor events, how they are regulated, and who determines the necessary number of security staff at any given event.
This issue is relatively straightforward, and is often guided by industry rather than the regulatory authority.
Crowd controller ratios are set as a condition attached to the liquor licence obtained by the event organiser. The ratio can vary depending on the size and nature of the event, and is determined on a case by case basis by the authority granting the liquor licence, (which may be either the police, or the state based liquor licensing body).
In most cases, the authority simply approves the ratio submitted by the event organiser in their event plan, provided the event organiser is experienced and has an understanding of the usual number required.
For large scale outdoor events, event plans, including a risk management assessment, must be submitted to the relevant licensing authority and local council, and approved by the police before the event can go ahead – and the expected audience and number of crowd controllers must be included in that plan.
Essentially, the approving authority has the right to exercise this discretion under governing legislation.
That being said, standard ratios have developed over time in some jurisdictions – although these generally apply more to traditional pub/club type venues, than large scale outdoor events (such as the Big Day Out, for example). The only example which could be found where a ratio is clearly set out is in Western Australia, where it is issued as part of a Policy Directive by the Director of Liquor Licensing. Queensland also sets out a ratio in its regulations, but this is limited to events within the boundaries of Brisbane City Council. Finally, the ACT does stipulate a ratio of 1:30 for underage events, which is contained in the regulations attached to their Act.
The attached table sets out (and provides links to) the liquor legislation that applies in each state, explains the general practice ratios, if any, that apply (remembering that they are not really that relevant for large outdoor events), and the agency responsible for approving liquor licences.
Of special interest, a study is currently being conducted by the University of Technology Sydney, to determine the optimum number (or ‘golden ratio’) for security staff at licensed events in New South Wales. New South Wales currently has no regulation, and numbers are generally set by event organisers. A link to a web-page describing the study is also contained in the table.
SPECIAL NOTE: DEATH OF JESSICA MICAHLIK, BIG DAY OUT 2001
The Executive Council also asked LPA to investigate the outcome of the death of Jessica Michalik at the Big Day Out (‘BDO’) in 2001, specifically, who was held liable. This remains the only recorded case in Australia of a death at an outdoor music event.
Ms Michalik died on 26 January 2001 as a result of asphyxiation, five days after being crushed in a mosh pit during a performance by the band Limp Bizkit, at the BDO.
A Coroner’s Inquest was held into the death and was finalised on 8 November 2002. Senior Deputy Coroner Ms Jacqueline M. Miledge handed down the finding.
It should be noted that there was no prospect of criminal charges being laid - a Coroner’s Inquest is held when the details of a death are not completely clear - but they do not determine criminal liability. That being said, civil actions can result depending on the findings. In terms of potential criminal charges, Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit’s lead singer) was interviewed by police in July 2001 - but there was insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing to warrant an arrest.
The Coroner’s Inquest found that the security practices employed by BDO organisers, Creative Entertainment Australia, were the chief cause of the tragedy.
The Coroner handed down ten key recommendations which she termed the ‘Jessica Recommendations’.
That a working party be established under the auspices of WorkCover NSW to review (then) current standards, and develop guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of patrons attending large scale events.
That the State Government establish a regulatory authority responsible for the licensing, regulating and policing of large scale entertainment events. This body should have powers to enforce compliance.
That Local Governments and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority request and review a comprehensive ‘risk assessment’ for all large scale entertainment events before granting permission.
That a National Code of Conduct be adopted by each state and territory to ensure uniformity of approach to safety issues for large scale events.
That anyone promoting or conducting a large scale event prepare a comprehensive ‘risk assessment’ after consultation with all stakeholders and service providers.
That the Minister for Education encourage all schools to educate teenage students of the dangers of moshing, crowd surfing and the possibility of heat and stress exhaustion when attending concerts and festivals.
That promoters ensure that protocols for stopping artists in emergency situations are clearly documented and agreed to by all parties affected.
That promoters of large scale events give consideration to devising an effective and immediate ‘alert’ to artists in an emergency situation.
All performance artists must adhere strictly to emergency procedure protocols once they are invoked. The laborious ‘chain of command’ where one person speaks to another, who speaks to another, is too time consuming. A coloured card or light would be the fastest way to communicate a problem.
That ‘user pays’ services i.e. Fire Brigade, Ambulance and Police, insist on, and sight, a comprehensive ‘risk assessment’ prior to agreeing to supply their services.
In the period since the Coroner’s Inquest, it is unclear if any of the recommendations have been implemented.
In relation to recommendation number 1, an event organiser’s guide does exist on the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet web-site (http://www.events.nsw.gov.au/event-starter-guide/1-introduction/), but there is nothing on the WorkCover NSW site.
Ms Michalik’s family did not pursue civil action and are reported to have always maintained that no one party was to blame for Ms Michalik’s death, but that it was instead a series of factors that led to the tragedy.
Recently, media interest in Ms Michalik’s death arose again as a result of decision by Big Day Out organisers to remove a secondary D-shaped barrier designed to control crowd numbers at the front of the stage for some of the 2012 BDO events (namely Perth, Adelaide and Auckland). The secondary barriers had been used by the BDO since 2002, and arose as a result of the recommendations of the Coroner. A decision was made not to use the barriers at particular shows which had a smaller capacity as they were not deemed necessary by BDO organisers, considering the patron numbers expected. However, the smaller capacity did still receive the same medical and surveillance infrastructure as the bigger eastern states shows.
Mr Michalik spoke out about the changes as he believed use of the secondary barriers was part of Jessica’s legacy. BDO organisers responded that the barrier system had been redesigned to suit a smaller single stage set-up, and that mobility of the audience was the number one priority.
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