The role of a local authority Safety Advisory Group (SAG)
SAGs are usually co-ordinated by a Local Authority (LA) and made up of representatives from the LA, emergency services, other relevant bodies and the event organiser. They may be event or location specific but otherwise tend to be based on LA boundaries.
Purpose and scope of a SAG
SAGs provide a forum for discussing and advising on public safety at an event. They aim to help organisers with the planning, and management of an event and to encourage cooperation and coordination between all relevant agencies. They are non-statutory bodies and so do not have legal powers or responsibilities, and are not empowered to approve or prohibit events from taking place. Event organisers and others involved in the running of an event, retain the principal legal duties for ensuring public safety.
Event organisers should determine whether there is a SAG, or similar arrangements, in the relevant area and if appropriate, submit their event proposal for discussion and advice. Attendance of the event organiser at SAG meetings may be voluntary. There is however benefits to be gained from engagement in the SAG process from the outset. LAs may of course require events organiser’s attendance eg as a condition of using their land.
Discussions may extend beyond an organiser’s duty to comply with workplace health and safety law and even the boundaries of an event site, to include considering the impact on the local transport network and civil contingencies in the event of an emergency. The advice provided by the SAG and any decisions taken should be proportionate to the risk profile of the event.
The SAG should advise the event organiser about public safety matters that they think need further consideration, explaining their reasons. It is the event organiser’s responsibility to take any appropriate action. On the rare occasion where there is disagreement between a SAG and the event organiser, and there remains a genuine risk to the public, individual organisations on the SAG such as the police, may decide to act to resolve the issue. Decisions on the use of these powers are matters for the relevant authorities to consider, not the SAG and should be discharged separately.
When SAGs consider events where LAs have responsibilities, eg as an organiser / co-organiser or landowner, the SAG should make the relevant LA department aware of any concerns so that they can act accordingly. An LA cannot rely on the SAG process to discharge its own legal duties. This is the responsibility of the LA. This will include decisions regarding the granting of public entertainment licenses and road closures.
When to hold a SAG
The guiding principle is that events presenting a significant public safety risk (whether in terms of numbers and profile of people attending, or the nature of the event activity and/or the challenge of the environment) should be considered. However, lower risk events like community village fetes and funfairs are unlikely to require a SAG.
Some event organisers will already have established effective liaison arrangements with external bodies or organisations like the LA and emergency services, because they will be involved in the wider management of the event eg crowd management to and from a venue and emergency arrangements. To facilitate this, some events establish a planning group/s. In these circumstances, it is often unnecessary to set-up a separate SAG.
SAGs and the role of HSE
HSE does not routinely sit on or attend SAG meetings. It is not normally appropriate for HSE to take part in the decision-making process at the planning stage, particularly where the event is organised by an LA. HSE inspectors may, however, be asked by a SAG and/or event organiser to provide advice and guidance on occupational health and safety matters, particularly where HSE is the enforcing authority for the activity concerned eg fairgrounds, broadcasting and construction activities. In these circumstances HSE is normally able to provide such advice to regulators, duty holders and others without having to attend the SAG although a local decision may be made that attendance would be appropriate.
HSE inspectors are not in a position to authorise or approve an event organiser's safety plan, so their contribution shouldn't be inferred by the SAG or the event organiser as sanctioning their methods of controlling risk.