Work health and safety at public events and in the natural environment
Many public events are commercial enterprises, such as speedway racing, professionally run sporting events, animal races and music festivals, and involve inherent risks outside those usually encountered through work.
There are also other public events that are held as fundraising activities for charities or not-for-profit organisations, such as fun runs.
When a public event is conducted by a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), work health and safety laws apply and the PCBU must ensure (so far as is reasonably practicable):
- the health and safety of workers in the workplace
- that work carried out as part of the event does not put the health and safety of participants or spectators at risk
- the work environment is without potential risks to health and safety
- plant and structures are safe
- systems of work are safe.
In doing what is reasonably practicable, the PCBU must meet the standard of behaviour expected of a reasonable person in their position who is required to comply with the same duty, and is:
- committed to providing the highest level of protection for people against risks to their health and safety
- proactive in taking measures to protect the health and safety of people.
Patrons attending an event may encounter health and safety risks (for example, when visiting the saddling up yard at a horse racing event, or by participating in a fun run). An event organiser needs to anticipate the likelihood that patrons will be exposed to risks to health and safety and provide reasonably practicable control measures in response. These can include:
- increasing supervision
- providing information and signage
- providing barriers and/or restricting entry to certain areas or activities.
Workers and other persons such as patrons at public events conducted by PCBUs also have a duty of care to:
- take reasonable care for their own health and safety
- take reasonable care that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of others
- comply with reasonable instructions given by the PCBU.
Interacting with the natural environment
The public carry out a wide range of activities in the natural environment, including visits to national parks, forests, private parks and other publicly accessible spaces. People also regularly stay in short term accommodation such as hotels, motels, caravan parks and farm stays which provide access to the natural environment (e.g. island resort providing beach access, cabin lodges providing access to bushwalks or trails).
Most public interactions with the natural environment are governed by contractual agreements or civil relationships between parties. When incidents occur in the natural environment, common law and criminal law generally determine matters of public safety and liability.
Work health and safety laws will only apply to activities where there is a link between work and public safety. For example, this might include construction or demolition activities where there are requirements to protect the public with gantries/fencing and exclusion zones. PCBUs operating in the natural environment or other publicly accessible spaces also need to consider work health and safety laws if they are operating plant, using work equipment or handling hazardous substances. PCBUs will need to consider electrical safety laws if electrical equipment is used or electrical risks are present as part of their business or undertaking.
There are also specific legislative frameworks in place which apply to certain activities in the natural environment and publicly accessible spaces, such as:
- Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011, which applies to recreational diving and snorkelling.
- Schedule 1, Part 1 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which provides that work health and safety laws apply to the operation of particular high risk plant, even if the plant is not situated or used at a workplace. This includes rides and amusement devices, as well as escalators.
Read about work health and safety laws, or call 1300 362 128.
Find more information on safety of the public in parks and forests.
- Last updated
- 02 July 2018
Codes of Practice are now an enforceable standard to manage hazards and risks
A Work Health and Safety inspector may refer to an approved code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.
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