By Bespoke Safety*
Call it Catch 22 or a double-edged sword but currently in the Australian events industry “it is the best of times; it is the worst of times.”
In the turbulent wake of national WHS Harmonisation, the Australian events industry is in somewhat of a dilemma. Wherein we recognise the need look inwards & develop a Code of Practice or set of Guidelines that set standards for our industry lest we be regulated arbitrarily by government, but at the same time look to government to provide guidance and (more importantly) funding to go forward.
Whilst not as depressingly dystopian as Dickens, this nevertheless makes for a Tale of Two Cities.
In one city we have the Event Professional; ambitious, hungry for change but lacking definitive leadership or the funds to bring about a much-needed “revolution” of sorts.
In the opposing metropolis dwell the powerful and intractable Government regulators, “seemingly” indifferent to the specific needs of the “masses” but apparently with money a plenty for philanthropy.
The “revolutionaries” seek to rule themselves and the “ruling-class” will only step in when lives begin to be lost.
But this isn’t the plot to Charles Dickens’ famous novel about the struggles during the French Revolution – it’s a social & professional dilemma playing itself out in our lifetime within the metaphorical battleground of the Australian Events Industry.
Revolution is a good thing when a change is needed, bringing passionate people together to discuss their plight and set a road map for a brighter future, but it needs strong leadership, a clear end-goal and it needs money to get the wheels of change rolling.
The National Safety Summit held recently at ENTECH 2012 is certainly an indicator that event industry innovators are prepared to work together to define how, as an industry, we can self-regulate OHS issues ourselves – with a show of hands for the creation of a “working party.”
“Vive la revolution” we say!
But revolutions have a way of losing their way, become fractious – leading to division and there is a strong indication that, in order to achieve a workable set of standards that are truly representative of the entire events industry, that standardisation must be key in the formulation of a representative Code of Practice.
Industry bodies such as the Exhibition & Events Association of Australia (EEAA) are attempting to strike such a balance with their “Industry Safety Program” – the formulation of a set of guidelines in their WHS “Tool kit” and WHS “Online Training Modules” that establish a standard and that is commendable, but some may argue that such a system focuses more on exhibitions & events – favouring venues and certain types of contractors and is not as relevant, say, to the festival and live music segment of the industry that represented strongly at ENTECH this year or to non EEAA members.
Australia has followed suit with the USA and now we have our own branch of the Event Safety Alliance (Australia) – which represents yet another movement to bring event safety standards together with the USA & Europe in adapting the “Purple Guide” – an Event Safety Guide developed overseas. Poignantly ESA Australia, like its American counterpart relies upon member donations and scaled corporate memberships to assist this notable goal.
This brings our gaze to fall upon the regulator, whose “Big Brother is watching you” approach nobody really wants to open the events industry front door to, so they can preside over us as our regulators and masters, but who paradoxically hold the purse strings to the funding we so desperately require to develop our own standards.
So how can we keep the wolf from our door without letting him blow our house down?
WorkSafe Victoria convened the “Event Safety Working Group” (ESWG) Forum on the 6th April 2011 and, whilst it represented a proactive effort by government to identify issues and solutions specifically for the events industry, funding was one aspect conspicuous in its absence from that agenda.
The ESWG has itself been discontinued, partly due to lack of funding.
The EEAA has had to scale back its Industry Safety Program for the time being as the funding expected from WorkSafe Victoria has not materialised, the ESA is obliged to go cap in hand to potential members. The fact is that we are a small industry compared to others and any funding that is left in the coffers seems to get allocated elsewhere.
In short – who is going to pay for this revolution, who is leading it and when the dust settles will we be unified by a set of ideals that represent the everyman or will we end up repeating history and be saddled with ineffectual rules that benefit just a few whilst the rest of us continue on much as before with very little change effected?
It’s a steep and uncertain path to change that lies before us and do any of us have anymore idea of the correct path to take than the next person – but rather cautions where we plant our first steps as much as who we choose to walk with and is reminded of the words of the author Vladimir Nabokov.
“Revelation can be more perilous than Revolution.”
Research: WorkSafe Victoria, EEAA, CX Magazine.
* this article submitted by Beaspoke Safety – principals Bea Tomlin and James Laity
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