Moving vehicles and plant, particularly lift trucks and pallet trucks, have been the cause of numerous serious and life changing accidents in the events and exhibitions industry in the last few years.

These types of vehicle and their established safety practices are designed for workplaces, such as warehouses where the separation of vehicles and pedestrians is part of the design of the work area. In event construction there are areas where we do not have the benefit of an existing traffic system and so often have heavy moving vehicles mixing with pedestrians using the same access routes and cargo doors. The law is quite clear on the general duty of care to provide a safe place of work and safe access routes for pedestrians and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 27 and 28 (CDM) are very clear on the need to separate vehicles and pedestrians.

In a recent case a waste collection and recycling company was fined £500,000 and its director given a jail sentence after an employee sustained multiple injuries when he was hit by a reversing telehandler. He was struck while crossing the work yard at the company’s recycling site and later died in hospital. Brighton Magistrates’ Court was told on 12 October that United Grab Hire had no adequate segregation measures which the HSE described as “a culture of pedestrians mixing with large vehicles”. The director pleaded guilty to breaching s.37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was jailed for six months, suspended for two years. A number of mitigating factors prevented the fine and the jail term being much more severe. The circumstances of this case could easily be repeated on an event construction site where the duty of care to prevent such accidents is much higher than on a closed recycling site.

The temporary nature of event construction, limited time, long hours and a reliance on temporary labour are challenges that need to be faced collectively by the industry. There is ample guidance from the HSE in the form of HSG 136 Workplace transport safety and HSG 6 Safety in working with lift trucks plus numerous other guidance documents which are free to download from the HSE website ( There is also the AEV eGuide ( which details site rules in the ‘Lifting’ section and the g-Guide ( gives detailed guidance applicable to overseas venues where the rules and best practice are not clear.

Key to controlling risks in this area is to appoint a recognised and competent logistics contractor from the ESSA membership. For events overseas where ESSA membership is not necessarily a given, the contractor should be a member of the International Event Logistics Association (IELA) and many UK contractors are members of both.

A very useful common practice is to issue accredited plant operators at the event with a numbered high visibility vest in a distinctive colour after they have received the operators’ safety brief. Offenders who break the rules, for example by speeding, can be identified and the vest removed effectively banning them from operating plant on site for that event.

All too often event safety managers ignore the lift park which is usually outside the event space itself. A few proactive checks on operator hours, qualifications and the pre shift vehicle safety check sheet should follow up the operator safety briefs to emphasise the importance of safety to the appointed contractor.

It has always been a requirement for operators to remove the keys when they leave the vehicle to prevent unauthorised use. Some vehicles have the added measure of an electronic code. In the light of recent terrorist attacks using vehicles as weapons this is now doubly important. All plant should be secured when not in use especially when parked up outside operating hours.
The focus should not just be on contractors. Event venues and organisers need to take an holistic approach to create the right conditions to allow competent contractors to operate safely and without risk to pedestrians.

The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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