Large-scale temporary outdoor events near to major accident hazards

Large-scale outdoor events such as festivals, sporting events and concerts are increasingly popular, regularly attracting large crowds of people. Most of these events pass off without incident, due to good planning and organisation by the organisers. This guidance provides some useful additional advice for organisers to help them run such events safely.

What you will find on this page

Information for organisers of large scale temporary outdoor events which take place under permitted development rights (so do not require a planning application) and which are near to areas which contain a major accident hazard. This guidance does not apply to all outdoor events. It is aimed at those that are likely to attract large numbers of people, for example a large crowd of spectators in front of a big stage or screen, or large numbers of people camping close together at a music festival or jamboree. It does not apply to events that require a planning application.

What is a major accident hazard?

A major accident hazard is a potential source of danger which, in the event of an incident could cause severe harm to a large number of people, for example, a release of flammable or toxic substances from a large industrial site, an explosion at a licensed explosive site or the failure of a high-pressure pipeline resulting in the release of a flammable substance. HSE sets areas known as 'consultation zones' and 'safeguarding zones' around certain major hazard sites and pipelines and licensed explosives sites (these are known as "safety hazard areas" in permitted development legislation) . These zones are used for land use planning purposes. They are designed to keep development away from major hazards wherever possible, and to limit the risk to public safety in the event of a major accident.

Planning authorities must consult HSE over certain developments within these zones which are likely to lead to an increased population around the major hazard. Even when a planning application is not required, as can be the case for temporary outdoor events, organisers need to check for major accident hazards when they choose the location and assess the suitability of a site.

Your duties as an event organiser

As an event organiser, you have a duty to planmanage and monitor your event to make sure that workers and the visiting public are not exposed to health and safety risks. You need to take account of any existing major accident hazards when choosing the location for an event, assess the suitability of the site, and plan for major incidents. Although not required to consult with HSE, organisers of outdoor events taking place under permitted development must still comply with their statutory duty in respect of risk management and health and safety. Where a site is within the consultation zone of a major accident hazard or explosives safeguarding zone, you need to consider and assess potential risks from the major accident hazard to those attending the event should an incident occur and put appropriate measures in place to mitigate those risks.

Whilst licensees of explosives sites and operators of major hazard sites and pipelines must take all measures necessary to prevent and limit the consequences of a major accident, organisers should also ensure that their event activity in no way increases the material risk of an incident at the major hazard site, pipeline or explosives site, or adversely impacts on the ability of the emergency services to attend in the event of an incident, for example by blocking roads with traffic or allowing parking near key junctions.

Is my event site within an HSE consultation zone or explosives safeguarding zone? (referred to as a "safety hazard area" in permitted development legislation)

It will not always be obvious that a site is within an HSE consultation zone. These can extend for large distances from the major hazard site, and in the case of major accident hazard pipelines, there are unlikely to be any surface structures to indicate their presence.

Although designed primarily for land developers, event organisers can use HSE's Planning Advice Web App to check whether a site is within an HSE consultation zone or explosives safeguarding zone. You will need to contact HSE to gain access to the Web App and will receive an email containing details enabling you to log in. Once logged in, organisers can 'create an enquiry' (see paragraph 2.8 and section 3 of the user guide for instructions) to check the proximity of the site to any major accident hazards. The Web App will say whether the site lies within the consultation distance of a hazardous installation or pipeline, or an explosives safeguarding zone and provides organisers with an option to download a report. This is a free service.

Alternatively, event organisers can ask HSE to check the details for them, however there may be a fee for this service.

What else can I do?

Ideally, organisers of events likely to attract large numbers of people should try to site them outside of HSE consultation zones or explosives safeguarding zones. However, if this is not possible, the following suggestions might help to reduce potential risks.

  • Consider locating those areas of the site where large numbers of people will congregate, such as in front of a stage or screen, as far away from the hazard as possible.
  • Areas where there will be a minimal presence of people, such as storage or service areas could be located closer to the hazard.
  • Is there a local authority Safety Advisory Group in the area? If so, you can contact them to discuss your event and seek advice. They may also be able to provide information about major hazards sites in the area.
  • Talk to the operators of the major hazard site or pipeline to gain an understanding of potential risks, and consider how, should an incident occur, this might affect those people attending the event. You can search online for public information about establishments in your area that are covered by the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015.
  • Discuss risk reduction options, for example for the duration of the event
    • Can a pipeline be isolated, or the operating pressure reduced?
    • Can the pipeline operator provide increased protection in the form of marking of the pipeline route and safety patrols by operational staff?
    • Can any movements of dangerous substances to and from the site (eg by tankers) be rescheduled or suspended?
    • Can major hazards operations, such as tank filling, be restricted?
    • Can the inventory in gasholders be reduced?
  • Establish a communication link with the site or pipeline operators to allow for rapid exchange of information (such as exchanging the event control/duty manager phone numbers)

If the site of a proposed event is within an explosives safeguarding zone, organisers should contact the licensee as soon as possible to determine whether additional safety arrangements should be put in place for the duration of the event

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Updated 2021-11-22