Risk Bite 13: Planning a large event

A large event can be an excellent way to invite people to church or get them involved with the congregation’s mission. A large event can be an opportunity to connect with new people and provide a chance to minister or fellowship. The event might also support the church's mission by letting people know about our services, raise funds for a cause, or allow people to celebrate together. 

Planning a large event isn’t easy, though; it involves dealing with many moving parts from finding a suitable date and location, getting volunteers involved, inviting people to attend and making sure the activities will run smoothly. 

Having a crowd gathered means that there are additional risks to consider and manage. We would hate to see someone hurt, a child lost, or people unable to appropriately respond in an emergency. In addition, we have a legal responsibility to do a risk assessment whenever there may a risk to health and safety (under the WHS Act). We often find that doing the risk assessment helps in the planning too. 

The following guidance has been prepared to assist Church Councils to conduct a risk assessment when planning an event and is based on questions that have come from congregations 

What is considered to be a large event that would require a risk assessment? 

A large event is one where more than the usual number of people are expected onsite (like a commissioning service) and/or where the activities organised are different from usual: e.g. an outreach event, a special meal for the congregation or combined congregations, a children’s craft and games event etc. 

What should the risk assessment include? 

The purpose of the risk assessment is to consider; 

  • Additional or modified emergency and first aid arrangements: the risk assessment considers larger numbers of people, possible crowding, visitors present who aren’t aware of how to evacuate, difficulty coordinating a large group, different risks from usual, e.g. a child falling off a jumping castle 
  • Risk associated with the activities: the event activities may not be covered in the congregations existing risk assessments, e.g. serving food, games, children present without their parents, additional parking on site etc 
  • Coordination of activities and risks: the risk assessment gives a chance to think if the set-up as a whole poses added risks e.g. an event at night might need additional lighting, parking issues might arise because of higher numbers, what is the procedure if a child is lost, how to communicate with the crowd, arranging tables/set-up and pack-up, security, Covid19 plans etc 

What if the event is being organised by someone else, and they are using our site?  

Both the church council and the organiser or hirer have responsibilities. If the church is just the owner of the premises, they should ensure the safety of the space and equipment (as usual) and ask for a copy of the event risk assessment. They should check if there’s anything problematic or what they can do to make it safer, e.g. the hirer might want to organise a candle-lit dinner event – would the church be happy with naked flames? 

In some situations, there may be a partnership where the church and hirer work together or share their risk assessments with each other. Ministry (external provider) use of the space might work like that. Covid19 plans are another example where both groups have shared ‘risk assessments’ to see what the other has in place. 

The risk assessment should be reviewed and kept by Church Council. 

Is there a form/template for the risk assessment? 

The usual WHS Risk Assessment Form can be used to record the event risk assessment. 

In addition, you might like to refer to the sample event risk assessment (this was done by a congregation in collaboration with the Risk Team. It relates to a community outreach event). 

For any questions of additional help, please don’t hesitate to contact the Risk Team at the Synod Office at risk@nswact.uca.org.au