"We should unite to form and follow safety rules." - Ton Soepenberg

Business Events | July 7, 2015 | News

WOW Convention Asia

The WOW Convention and Awards Asia 2015 took place on June 25 at JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity, featuring world class speakers in a string of power packed sessions and panel discussions.

In a session titled ‘International Event Safety and Standards’, Ton Soepenberg, Director, Polytechnic and Poly Worldwide Entertainment, spoke extensively about international safety standards at events in relation to India’s need to standardise norms for safety as the event industry continues to grow. Soepenberg’s experience doing events in India made it possible for him to share relevant insights about what’s lacking in the industry when it comes to making events safe.

Talking about the current scenario in India and the need to regulate safety standards, he said, “The event industry in India is growing in scale and excellence. The concept of an overall Indian event quality mark with regard to safety would require a tightly controlled monitoring system by an independent board to ensure that the agreed high standards are maintained. We should unite to form and follow the rules. While it is very easy for accidents to happen, it is also easy to prevent things from happening.”

Some of the reasons he identified for safety norms being flouted include work pressure and stress, tight deadlines, low budgets, cost-cutting, lack of knowledge, no education on safety, inadequate governance, no guidelines, no certification on structures and rigging material, etc.

Measures to resolve this issue would include setting up an independent governing body, having a Safety and Rigging Practices guidebook, registering people in the entertainment rental industry and grading them on their standards, organising subsidised workshops, and also introducing safety courses for event managers and vendors. Aspects of safety at events were also briefly discussed and include personal safety, sound, rigging/trussing, lighting, A.V and special effects.

Panel discussion

The above session was followed by panellists comprising practitioners in the Indian event industry responding to some of Soepenberg’s points and exploring how companies can proactively perform self-checks to meet basic safety standards.

One of the points made was that event heads need to take responsibility about safety at events and not simply trust vendors they work with. Mohomed Morani, Director, Cineyug said, “When it comes to safety at events in India, we really need to get educated. We work with technicians all the time who say they can execute a lot of things, but we can’t go by what they are saying”.

The discussion also moved on to the shape a regulatory body would take and the level of involvement it would see from event and entertainment companies. Warren D’Souza, Director, Sound.com noted, “There are definitely a number of companies in India with excellent safety standards who should be responsible in bringing about a regulatory board. We all have to be in this together.”

Others on the panel expressed the view that real improvements in safety standards can only come about if a regulatory body is completely independent. Sumit Chandhoke, CEO, SALT Experiential Marketing, remarked, “It’s a fact we as an industry don’t care enough for safety. I feel we need to create barriers for suppliers, venues and event companies. A third party should be responsible for regulating safety standards used”.

While Suresh Madan, Director, DynaMixMedia was of the view that a change can only come from different stakeholders feeling the need to establish a safety board, he too agreed that such a board would itself have to be free of stakeholders. He said, “I think the surest way to safety in the Indian context has to be every stakeholder feeling the need for standards to be established. One approach to doing this would be to establish a regulatory body without any stakeholders as part of it.”

The panel also invited participants attending the session to express interest in getting together to do something concrete about this issue. The response was positive with several people attending eager for future collaboration on this matter, making this session an extremely productive one that is likely to be the starting point for event safety standardization practices in the country.

A session highlighting the importance of Event Safety and Standards in India, and starting point on how these should be implemented.

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