Public assembly risk management

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This examination of public assembly risk management considerations is under development by University of Florida, College of Health and Human Performance, Department of Sport Management, SPM 4724 Risk Management in Live Entertainment and Sports undergraduate students. This is a Fall 2020 coursework initiative that is being led by the students at the direction of Brian D. Avery, UF SPM Faculty member. This project will begin September 7, 2020 and will be ongoing throughout the Fall 2020 semester.

Students will analyze and define risk management considerations including safety, security, business continuity, legal, and regulatory issues impacting the live entertainment and sport industry. Students will focus on new and existing assembly occupancies (both indoor and outdoor) accommodating 250 patrons or more with an emphasis on occupancy in excess of 6000 (large-scale).

Learning Objectives

  1. Analyze and define prevailing public assembly risk management theories;
  2. Analyze and define applicable public assembly risk management standards and practices;
  3. Evaluate and define prevailing public assembly continuity plans;
  4. Analyze and define public assembly safety and security protocols;
  5. Evaluate and define public assembly incident trends and accepted responses; and,
  6. Analyze and define public assembly legal considerations regarding matters of negligence.


  • History and introduction of public assembly risk management;
  • Typology of risk management as it relates to public assemblies;
  • Accepted risk management frameworks for public assemblies;
  • Management roles and practices as it relates to public assemblies;
  • Public assembly risk considerations related to spectators, participants, staff, and vendors;
  • Theories of accident / ancient causation as it relates to public assemblies;
  • Hazard recognition, mitigation and/or elimination practices as it relates to public assemblies;
  • Regulations, standards, and practices as they release to public assemblies;
  • Business continuity planning for public assemblies;
  • Security and loss prevention planning for public assemblies;
  • Medical and first aid considerations for public assemblies; and,
  • Occupational safety and health considerations as they relate to public assemblies.

Medical and First Aid Considerations for Public Assemblies[edit | edit source]

A description of a key principle associated with the topic[edit | edit source]

A key principle associated with medical and first aid considerations for public assemblies is determining the type of public assembly and associated risk levels. Depending on these two factors, it will determine what level of medical/first aid equipment is needed on-scene of the event. According to an article by Arthur Hsieh, there are several factors during an event that can have an impact on public safety. These include weather, age, drugs and alcohol, location, timing, and potential for violence (Hsieh, 2020). For example, an outdoor event in Florida in July would require different precautions than one in December because of extreme heat. An event hosting an older crowd has a greater risk of falls, slips, or health emergencies than a children’s event. A heavy metal concert would be more likely to attract alcohol and drug users and violence versus a Little League World Series game. All of these factors have an impact on how many medical personnel should be on scene, whether basic life support (BSL) or advanced life support (ASL) are preferred, and what other first aid services should be offered on scene.

Use of an applicable regulation, standard, and/or practice associated with the topic or a prevailing theory

The World Health Organization notes characterization of risk in determining the extent of medial/first aid at an event. Their chart characterizes risk from minimal to severe, and understanding what can happen at each level is an important practice for those frequently involved in the implementation of large events or public assemblies. Minimal risk is characterized by little or no consequences (World Health Organization, 2015). This could include no injuries or very small ones such as cuts/abrasions. The next level is minor, characterized by low risk of injury or illness (World Health Organization, 2015) such as the potential for broken bones, food poisoning, etc. Next is moderate, characterized by having the potential for death or serious injury (World Health Organization, 2015). This could include a carnival event. A major risk event is characterized by substantial loss of life or injury (World Health Organization, 2015) which could include an event at which the likelihood of alcohol/drug overdoses are prevalent. Lastly, risks classified as severe include extreme loss of life or serious injury (World Health Organization, 2015) which could be attributed to an act of terrorism. The WHO characterization of risk is applicable when looking at medical and first aid considerations because it can help determine appropriate courses of action and what medical devices/personnel should be nearby and ready to go. A second practice associated with medical and first aid considerations is the event classification matrix that scores event risk on a 0-6 scale, with 0 being the least risk and 6 being the most (Avery, 2020). This looks at characteristics such as weather, attendance, predicted alcohol consumption, crowd age and intent, and transport time to hospital to determine how high risk the event is and the associated medical and first aid components that should be present at the given event (Avery, 2020). The three levels of event risk are high, intermediate, and low. High-risk events (5-6) should have a licensed physician and ALS equipment on-site (Avery, 2020). By having ALS equipment on site at events that are expected to produce a significant amount of injuries (i.e. an event in which a high amount of drugs and/or alcohol is being consumed), the probabilities of death decreases as patients can be treated sooner. Especially if transport time to a hospital is not reasonable and risk is inherent to the event, this will be very important for public safety. An intermediate risk event (3-4) should have a mix of BLS/ALS components and should consider appropriate staff, stations, and equipment based on the nature of the event (Avery, 2020). It is always better to be prepared and ready for any feasible incident to occur, which is why medical and first aid considerations are a necessary factor at places of public assembly. A low risk event (0-2) should have BLS equipment ready to go. Looking at the event classification risk matrix is an important practice when assessing medical and first aid considerations. It gives event organizers a proper gauge on the safety of their event, an idea of what could happen (extreme weather, overdose, various injuries, etc.), and time to prepare safety stations for maximum patron safety.

A recognized or potential mitigation/elimination tactic or rationale for the theory/practice  [edit | edit source]

To mitigate the risk of an event, it must first be considered if the risks are avoidable or not. Some may be, such as moving an outdoor event indoors if the location is under a severe storm warning. Some risks, however, are unavoidable, such as the use of drugs and alcohol at an EDM concert, for example. The use of drugs at these festivals could be considered a part of the environment, and precautions are not typically taken to eliminate the drug use but instead to monitor the use of ‘safe’, non-poisoned drugs (Avery, 2020). This is why the event classification matrix is such a helpful practice for medical and first aid considerations. The matrix helps determine what risks are avoidable and which ones are not and can therefore help mitigate extreme occurrences (i.e. death) by having appropriate personnel and equipment on-scene to handle an emergency. Each public assembly occurrence should also have an emergency action plan (EAP) if there is to be an emergency requiring medical attention/first aid. The EAP assigns specific roles to various staff members so they know what their course of action and duties are in a situation. Especially for high risk events, the EAP is necessary to ensure there is no chaos or confusion on part of anyone during a situation. By looking into the World Health Organization’s risk classification system, it can help determine the depth and scope of the EAP. For example, if risk at an event is minimal the EAP will not have that many components because the extent of an injury may simply be a cut or a broken bone. However, if the perceived risk is to be severe (an example being the potential for an act of terrorism), there would have to be strict EAP guidelines and assurance that everyone could do their part.

A method of applying the mitigation/elimination tactic[edit | edit source]

A method of applying a risk assessment is to do a facility inspection before the event. This can help determine if there are any falling/trip hazards, if and how weather can be an issue, if the facility is appropriate for the demographic (for example, you would not want to host an event for wheelchair-bound individuals in the sand), and more. A facility inspection can help determine the avoidable and unavoidable risks and can perhaps determine if the venue should be changed in the best interest of public safety. A method of applying the emergency action plan would be to run a drill with all members of the emergency response team before the event. Going back to the EDM concert example, maybe a scenario is run in which a patron experiences an overdose. On-scene EMTs would retrieve the individual and bring them to a critical care medical station. As this would be a high-risk event by the event classification matrix, the individual would probably then be treated by appropriate personnel and equipment. By running a practice scenario, the EAP can be practiced and the mitigation of a real overdose during the event would go a lot smoother. There would be no question as to what medical and first aid services would be needed, and there would be appropriate personnel on-scene to take care of the situation.

A citation[edit | edit source]
  1. Avery, B. (2020). Health, Medical, and Safety: Best Practices for Mass Gatherings [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/jordi/Downloads/Health-Medical_Event-Planning.pdf
  2. Hsieh, A. (2020, May 28). EMS coverage for mass gatherings and public events. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from
  3. World Health Organization. (2015). Public Health for Mass Gatherings: Key Considerations [PDF]. Retrieved from WHO_HSE_GCR_2015.5_eng.pdf

Public assembly risk considerations related to spectators, participants, staff, and vendors.

 A description of a key principle associated with the topic;

A key principle in regard to risk considerations for those involved with public assemblies is fire safety. There is always a risk of a fire in any situation but in a public assembly where many lives are involved security and proper training on fire safety is paramount. In an event where there may be fireworks or pyrotechnics involved there is an additional fire risk involved. The operator for the pyrotechnics holds the overall responsibility in safely using them.

Use of an applicable regulation, standard, and/or practice associated with the topic or a prevailing theory;

     The NFPA 1126 standard for use of pyrotechnics before an audience provides safety training and guidance on appropriate measures to take when dealing with pyrotechnics in front of a large gathering. There needs to be at least one license holder on hand with adequate training although all members of the staff should be well equipped with this training.  

A recognized or potential mitigation/elimination tactic or rationale for the theory/practice;

                       Fire alarms systems used to detect fires shall they occur can help to mitigate the hazard. Making sure fire alarm systems are functioning are also part of the training and setup for an event with pyrotechnics involved. Portable fire extinguishers should also be present should they need to be used by trained personnel in the event of an emergency.

A method of applying the mitigation/elimination tactic; and,

                       All events using pyrotechnics are required to have a trained professional in direct supervision of the pyrotechnics operator at all times. This is not a suggestion but a requirement. In doing so the hope is that the likelihood of a fire occurring is lessened with supervision taking place during the display.


Fire safety in public assemblies. (2004). Retrieved November 17, 2020, from

Theories of accident / ancient causation as it relates to public assemblies[edit | edit source]

A description of a key principle associated with the topic[edit | edit source]

A key principle associated with the theories of accident/ancient causation is determining the type of event and audience that will be in attendance at the event. Without knowing the type of event, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the potential risks would be. This information is necessary because different crowds act differently at different events. An example of this could be music genres in concert. If someone is at an EDM concert they should expect to see some head-banging, but mainly some fun dancing. If that same person then went to a Metal concert, they should expect to see mosh pits and fist fights. With out knowing the type of event or audience, event staff struggle to prepare for potential accidents they could experience.

Use of an applicable regulation, standard, and/or practice associated with the topic or a prevailing theory[edit | edit source]

There are multiple theories associated with accident causation. There is the Domino theory which states that an injury is caused by the preceding factors. This means that the moments and actions that one makes before an accident are what caused it. Another theory is the Human Factor Theory which states that a chain of events caused by human error will lead to an accident. This essentially means that what someone does is what will lead to an accident, not the forces around them. Another applicable theory is the Incident Theory which is a build off of human factors but accounting for system failure and err. Another theory is the Epidemiological Theory which studies the relationship between environmental factors and disease and can be used to study causal patterns in a relationship. This theory is used to study how everything interacted to cause the accident. Another theory that is applicable is the Systems Theory which states accidents arise from interactions among humans, machines, and the environment. All of the forces interacted in such a way that it caused a problem. The final theory is the Combination Theory which states accidents may/may not fall under one model and that they result from factors from multiple models. This is the one that most people agree upon when looking at the cause of an accident.

A recognized or potential mitigation/elimination tactic or rationale for the theory/practice [edit | edit source]

When trying to figure out the root cause of an accident, these theories can each be applied in some way or another to find the cause of an accident. Using these theories, companies can then trace the data to the root cause and fix it so that it will not happen again. An example of this as it pertains to public assemblies would be if a stage fell apart in the middle of an event. By looking at the damage organizations are able to see the cause of the problem and change it so that it does not happen again. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict an accident to happen unless something seems out of place. These theories if studied properly can give employees the information they need to plan out how the assembly will be run correctly and with minimal risk.

A method of applying a mitigation/elimination tactic[edit | edit source]

By studying Systems Theory in this example, employees are able to see how people, machines, and the environment are all interacting. This gives employees insight of how to set up the event to properly protect all three areas. If the assembly is a music concert, the stage shouldn’t be too close to the crowd in case it collapses, and the crowd should stay away from the stage because they could make the stage collapse, and both parties need to be wary of the weather because rain could cause injuries to people or machines. In the event that a problem happens, event planners can accurately forecast potential risks before they happen through use of the Domino Theory. If it is supposed to rain, then event planners will be able to lay out tarps to prevent people from slipping or getting electrocuted. These theories each work differently to help event planners account for risk.

A Citation[edit | edit source]

1. Avery, B. (2020). Theories of Accident Causation [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from   file:///C:/Users/jordi/Downloads/Theories_of_Accident_Causation.pdf 2. Duffy, S. “Theories of Accident Causation.” Powerpoint,

Occupational Safety and Health Considerations for Public Assemblies[edit | edit source]

A Description of a Key Principle Associated with the Topic[edit | edit source]

Slip and Falls[edit | edit source]

One of the most dangerous incidents under the umbrella of occupational safety and health is falls/slips. This type of accidental event is responsible for the second most fatalities according to OSHA, only behind motor vehicle accidents. Many occupational hazards are thought to be related to specific job fields, but slip and fall risk can be present in any career, including live event hosting. It is important that we don’t forget about the safety of our own employees while watching out for our patrons. There are a number of walking-working areas in a venue for public assembly that are only accessible to employees, and it is critical that we show those areas of our facility the same care we would to the entrance of the building.

Covid-19 Precautions[edit | edit source]

A relatively new principle in Occupational Safety and Health for public assemblies is the new guidance on preparing Workplaces for Covid-19. A large focus in the media has been made on guests to stores and venues not wearing masks or practicing safe social distancing, but there is also a large list of responsibilities we have to prepare our space before any patrons are permitted to enter. This is done not only for the safety of those guests but for the safety of our employees who spend the most time in our assembly. This specific guidance has been developed on the fly this year, but it is based on years and years of preparation for the spread of infectious diseases. This is just specific for the risks imposed by Covid-19 on our facilities.

NRTL Requirements[edit | edit source]

Another key principle associated with occupational safety and health in public assemblies is staying up to date with required testing and certification of life saving devices in our facilities. In particular, fire prevention devices such as fire extinguishers and automatic sprinkler systems in areas of indoor public assembly need to be functional and up to code, and should be regularly inspected to ensure this. There is also a strict testing method put into place for certain products before these devices are ever approved for use in any facility that many people may not be aware of, but it is a requirement for all employers who have any of these products anywhere in their facilities. These tests are carried out by laboratories designated by OSHA at the manufacturing level, but employers need to be aware of changes in certification over time.

Cooking Ventilation[edit | edit source]

One hazard that is applicable to many different types of public assemblies is the risk posed by cooking. This hazard can apply to purpose built facilities such as arenas or stadiums, as well as mobile and temporary cooking set ups such as those found at fairs or festivals. It is important that we remain aware of the risks posed when we allow fresh cooked food to be a part of our event. Maintaining the safety of guests and employees requires proper training, effective protocols, and scheduled inspection and maintenance to ensure cooking devices are up to code. These devices can range from cotton candy machines to deep oil fryers, and the consequences can be wide ranging as well. If these precautions are not taken thoroughly, event hosts run the risk of severe burns, ventilation issues, and possibly life-threatening fires. It is our duty as event risk managers to double check any vendors bringing in outside materials for compliance.

Use of an Applicable Regulation, Standard, and/or Practice Associated with the Topic or a Prevailing Theory[edit | edit source]

Slip and Falls[edit | edit source]

OSHA 1910 Subpart D outlines the basic protections that should be given for walking-working surfaces in general industry. This includes a declaration that “All places of employment… are kept in a clean, orderly, sanitary condition” as well as outlining the need for regular and “as necessary” inspection of walking-working surfaces in and around our building. This OSHA statute clearly covers any area of our building where “an employee walks, works, or gains access to a work area or workplace location.” And it also stipulates that walkways should not be used by any employee if any of those conditions are not met.

Covid-19 Precautions[edit | edit source]

OSHA 3990-03 lays out guidance for “Preparing Workplaces for Covid-19”, but it states clearly at the beginning of the journal that “this guidance is not a standard or regulation and it creates no new legal obligation”. Simply put, this reference serves as an effective guide and is not required to be adhered to nationwide, yet, making it an applicable practice/prevailing theory within the world of Occupational Safety and Health. Following the practices outlined in this guidebook will have our organization operating at the peak of Covid prevention protocols.

NRTL Requirements[edit | edit source]

OSHA, per provisions of the General Industry Standards 29 CFR Part 1910 has established the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) program to govern certain product certification. This program compiles guidelines and statutes in and outside of OSHA across all industries into a collection of 37 different product categories that are required to be certified by one of 20 different NRTL’s currently designated by OSHA. These products tend to be life saving devices or products that are prone to fail or cause injury/fire. Some example products that must be NRTL certified include fire sprinklers, fire doors, and portable fire extinguishers, all common products that should be located in large indoor venues for public assembly. The list of NRTL’s approved by OSHA and the requirements for testing are always liable to change as new information becomes available, so it is important that we insure we are up to date in our compliance.

Cooking Ventilation[edit | edit source]

NFPA standard 96 is written with a focus on ventilation and fire prevention in cooking operations across many industries. Chapter 4 specifically governs the “General Requirements for Cooking Operations in Buildings and Mobile and Temporary Operations”, which suffices to cover all forms of cooking likely to be found in public assemblies. The focus of this manual is to provide preventative and operative fire safety requirements in order to significantly reduce the potential fire hazard of public and private cooking facilities. Ensuring our facility remains up to these standards is the best recognized method for fire prevention.

A Recognized or Potential Mitigation/Elimination Tactic or Rationale for the Theory/Practice[edit | edit source]

Slip and Falls[edit | edit source]

The mitigation technique for this issue is twofold. First, the organization must show that they have a set schedule for inspecting walking-working surfaces. Inspections must also be done “as necessary” meaning that some conditions or incidents may lead to another requisite inspection. Second, there must be an ability to resolve any issues that are found in the walking-working surface before allowing any employees to utilize that surface. It is estimated by the U.S. Department of labor that net reduction in costs associated with following the updated version of OSHA regulation 1910 subsection D is over 300$ million per year.

Covid-19 Precautions[edit | edit source]

Some of the mitigation/elimination tactics for this practice are simple and already enforced by the health department, such as frequent employee handwashing. A few however are newly recommended since the outbreak of Covid-19. This guide outlines the development of policies and procedures for “Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if Appropriate”. This is a new responsibility that very few people in the world of Public assemblies were professionally prepared for, but it is a critical step to slowing the spread of Covid-19 and other highly infectious respiratory diseases that may appear in the future. This is an especially important consideration for employees at places of public assemblies, as the potential for spread is amplified with so many guests from different areas.

NRTL Requirements[edit | edit source]

In accordance with this policy, all products certified by an NRTL will have a printed certificate insignia proving that they are seen as  fit for use in a facility under OSHA guidelines. The testing laboratories ensure that these devices meet the stringent requirements placed forth OSHA, to help prevent failure and streamline the process of finding approved devices for use by employers. Five NRTLs have seen their status removed since the year 2000, showing the importance of staying up to date with this information. If our devices have the NRTL approval removed by OSHA, we will need to buy all new equipment that has been certified by a currently approved NRTL.

Cooking Ventilation[edit | edit source]

There are a number of steps organizations must take for safe operation of potentially dangerous cooking devices in public assembly. First, and kitchen appliance that could produce smoke or “grease-laden vapors” must be equipped with a compliant exhaust system, and a measurement must be done of the approximate output of grease. Certain items in the kitchen are required to be kept in working order at all times, including cooking equipment, hoods, ducts, fans, fire extinguishing equipment, and energy control equipment. Guidance is given for when a dedicated overhead hood is required and outlines the specific design requirements for different situations. There is even a need to have several devices certified by an OSHA NRTL despite this being an NFPA standard. There is a section outlining the need for regular inspection and maintenance at intervals determined by the device in question. Furthermore, this guide lays the ultimate responsibility for inspection, testing, maintenance, and cleanliness at the hands of the owner of the operation.

A Method of Applying the Mitigation/Elimination Tactic[edit | edit source]

Slip and Falls[edit | edit source]

The best way to apply this tactic is firstly to have a dedicated employee area janitorial staff who is adequately trained to address simple issues with the surface, such as spills, leaks, obstruction of walkways. The response here is to block off the walkway and commence fixing the issue. They should also be trained to block off and call in issues that they cannot fix to be inspected. Our venue should also have a dedicated construction consultant who specializes in repairing dangerous issues with the surface, such as corrosion, loose construction material, or sharp protruding objects.

Covid-19 Precautions[edit | edit source]

The method provided by OSHA is to develop policies and procedures to educate employees about the signs and symptoms of infectious respiratory diseases, and to train your employees to isolate themselves if they feel there is any chance they may be sick. OSHA 3990-03 encourages employers to designate a room with a closed door as a temporary “isolation space” for immediate removal of potentially sick persons from the healthy population. This could be especially effective for public assembly venues. If an employee begins exhibiting symptoms after arriving to an event, swift isolation could limit the number of contracts they have and slow the spread. Further, employers should make moves to protect uninfected workers by enforcing 6 feet of social distance between all people in the venue when possible, and creating additional engineering and administrative controls when 6 feet of social distance is not possible. An example of this would be OSHA regulated sneeze guards installed at point of sale terminals in arenas.

NRTL Requirements[edit | edit source]

As part of our organizations policy for testing the working condition of fire prevention products found within our public assembly space, considerations should also be made to ensure our devices are up to date in their NRTL certification. Products such as fire extinguishers and fire sprinklers should be tested at regular intervals to ensure that the devices are working when needed most, and it is simple to include up to date NRTL certification as a part of that checklist.

Cooking Ventilation[edit | edit source]

With the number of responsibilities and potential hazards laid on the shoulders of the owner-operator of kitchen facilities under NFPA 96.4, it is important that all employees are trained on proper operation and cleaning techniques. Our cooking operations should adhere to a strict inspection and maintenance schedule, and cleaning of grease heavy machinery should be conducted daily. All kitchen equipment, particularly overhead hoods and exhaust systems should be designed and installed according to NFPA guidelines intended to significantly reduce fire risk. All kitchen employees must be trained in proper use of ventilation systems and prepared to identify issues with increased grease production in certain machinery. This training will be beneficial to the safety of everyone involved in a public assembly with cooking structures.

A Citation[edit | edit source]

Slip and Falls[edit | edit source]

A Guide to OSHA’s Revised General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards (2020). Diversified Fall Protection. Retrieved from Diversified Fall Protection:

Covid-19 Precautions[edit | edit source]

OSHA. (2020). Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

NRTL Requirements[edit | edit source]

OSHA. (2020). Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Program. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Intertek. (2018). What is an "NRTL" and what is it's role? Retrieved from Intertek:

Cooking Ventilation[edit | edit source]

NFPA. (2020). Codes & Standards. Retrieved from National Fire Protection Association:

NV Fire Department. (2019). Module Public Assembly. Retrieved from Nevada State Fire Marshal:

See Also[edit | edit source]