Back in late 2018 SACIA’s Event Safety Council set about the development of two new professional designations for Event Safety Officers. It was a process that involved active engagement with various government and regulatory bodies, and local practitioners and industry colleagues from around the world.
The draft designations were published in the Government Gazette on 14 August 2020 and eventually approved by the SAQA Board on 20 November 2020. “This is an exciting time for the events industry in South Africa,” says Kevan Jones, executive director at SACIA. “Whilst legislation and standards reference the role and responsibility of event safety officers, there has not been, until now, any formal recognition of an individual’s competence in this field.”
There are two new professional designations that have been introduced. “We’re starting with the Event Safety Practitioner designation which signifies an individual’s comprehensive knowledge and commitment to safe working practices in the events industry,” explains Mike Lord, interim chair of SACIA’s Event Safety Council, adding that the advanced “Event Safety Professional” designation will be launched during the first quarter of 2021. “A Certified Event Safety Practitioner will have demonstrated their broad understanding of standards, regulations and laws relating to event safety, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the role and responsibility of stakeholders involved in the event chain. Critical is that the Event Safety Practitioner needs to demonstrate their understanding of SASREA, SANS10266: Health and Safety at Events, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as City by-laws encompassing key appointments, site plan approvals, event licencing, event emergency planning, risk assessment and compliance, etc.”
Individuals applying for the Practitioner designation are assessed on their education, work experience and work ethic, and are required to write an online exam as well as provide a Portfolio of Evidence supporting their claim of competence. They’re also required to have an NQF level 4 qualification (such as the National Senior Certificate) and at least two years of work experience as an Event Safety Officer, specifically in the events sector.
“The multiple-choice exam tests a broad range of competencies required by individuals working in our sector,” says Lord. “Whilst a comprehensive understanding of standards, regulations and bylaws is key, candidates are also tested on a broader range of competencies they’re likely to experience on an event site. The exam includes questions around event power, temporary structures, bullying and workplace intimidation, gender-based violence, weather, medical requirements, and much more.”
The multiple-choice exam has been compiled by industry experts and members of the Event Safety Council working with the Event Safety Alliance in the United States. “We’ve benchmarked our questions against local and international standards and we’re confident that our assessment is academically robust and aligned with the competencies required by an individual working as an Event Safety Officer,” says Dr. Lisa Welthagen, subject head for Events Management at Tshwane University of Technology and a member of the SABS TC264 committee responsible for the development of the SANS10366 national standard for safety in the events industry, “but knowledge alone is only one part of the assessment. Individuals applying for the designation need to provide a portfolio of evidence supporting their claim of competence. They need to demonstrate that they can apply their knowledge and create a safe environment for performers, technical crew working an event, and of course for patrons attending an event.”
One of the first people to write the exam was Thomas Cameron from the Nelson Mandela Bay Disaster Management office. “This designation is long overdue and certainly separates those individuals who are competent as Event Safety Officers from the many fly-by-night operators claiming a competence they don’t have,” says Cameron. “The exam is difficult, and the assessment standards are high but when you’re dealing with the safety of the public, that’s exactly how it should be. When safety officers get it wrong, people inevitably get hurt.”
What does the introduction of these designations mean to the events industry in South Africa? “During this State of National Disaster, we’ve seen a massive drop off in events, with attendance numbers severely curtailed,” says Jones, “but as vaccines and treatment plans start to become available, it is certain that the events industry will revive itself. The key question being asked by everyone working in national, provincial and local government is how events can be held without spreading the COVID-19 virus, and without posing a risk to the performers, patrons and crew working on an event. The answer is through the enforcement of standards and bylaws. The role and responsibilities of the event safety officer will be under a spotlight so it’s critical we have a mechanism to identify those individuals who are competent to do the job. Going forward I fully expect event organisers and their designated JOC’s will require every event to have designated staff in place to ensure compliance with all health and safety protocols.
Individuals interested in earning the Certified Event Safety Practitioner designation can download the SACIA Member’s Handbook at http://www.sacia.org.za/docs/handbooks/SACIA-Generic-Handbook-for-Members.pdf and can register to write the online examination at https://www.classmarker.com/online-test/start/?quiz=rxd6000115be5bd8