supplier risk

Why managing supplier risk is essential for the safety of participants at your event. But how much risk should you take on?

As an event manager, you want to create an event that is fun and exciting for all your participants. Behind the scenes you’re probably already working on your risk management plan for the health and safety of your event participants, but have you thought about the potential impact that your suppliers and contractors may have on the safety of your participants?

This article discusses how event managers can prepare risk strategies with clearly defined responsibilities for suppliers, so that you’re not carrying all the load, and so that risks associated with events are appropriately shared with suppliers.

Identifying supplier risk

Suppliers at your event include the following:

Contractors – providing temporary infrastructure such as staging, steps and seating.

Suppliers of specific services – security services, medical and first aid, waste collection, traffic management.

Vendors – food and merchandise.

Exhibitors – people providing entertainment, in one location or moving about the event, acts that involve audience participation or interaction.

Sponsors – who take the opportunity for promotions and activations or who provide merchandise for free. For example, a sponsor who provided free slap bands at a local event a few years ago didn’t know that these bands had associated risk. One teenager peeled the plastic off revealing a sharp stainless steel band inside which caused lacerations to their fingers, requiring prompt medical attention. There is a responsibility by the event organiser to look closely at all these promotional activities, and to find out what their sponsors are planning.

Anyone involved in your event carries some responsibility for the health and safety of participants. Your suppliers know their service best and therefore they also know any risks involved. As an event organiser, your role is to be fully informed of these risks by asking the right questions of suppliers, delving into the detail with an inquisitive mind, gathering all the information you can and equipping yourself with enough knowledge to clearly understand how the risk can be shared.

Remember your suppliers are the experts in their field which is why you have brought them in, and therefore you don’t need to take on any more risk than you have to. Suppliers must be able to provide assurance to you on how they will manage their service delivery with their own risk management plan. Your job as an event manager is to make sure they have stepped up to the responsibility they have, and that they have applied the appropriate amount of rigour to satisfy their due diligence obligations.

Guidelines to set up supplier agreements that mitigate event risk

Agreements with your suppliers are a valid risk sharing tool to make sure that each party is aware of their obligations. In this agreement you would articulate the level of assurance and safety measures provided by the supplier to your event and can include insurance certificates, safe work method statements, and business licences.

Each event organiser must be aware of their basic OH&S obligations that are non-negotiable and discuss these with suppliers.

How suppliers can affect your event’s risk strategy and plan

In our experience, the most common ways an event can be negatively impacted by suppliers are the following:

  • Insecure infrastructure – items such as staging, decks, temporary steps or seats not in good working order.
  • Insufficient resourcing – for example the supplier may not be providing enough staff to deliver a key project on time for event commencement, or give participants proper directions at the event.
  • Insufficient weather planning – how will changes in weather affect their service delivery? What happens if there is too much rain, hail, or a heat wave?
  • Poorly informed contractors – not enough communication between event suppliers leading to poor planning and clumsy installations increasing dangers to participants.

Discussion, detailed planning and due diligence from all parties involved is the way to mitigate and share risk. Good communication between contractors and suppliers is essential so they can coordinate their services properly where they have an impact on each other, to ensure they are able to deliver to their commitment to the health and safety of eventgoers.

As an event organiser, you cannot afford to think that now you have a contractor on board, you no longer need to worry about risk management. This approach will leave you open to problems down the track.

However, you also don’t want to get over-involved in their planning as you then begin to take on unnecessary risk that your supplier should be responsible for. I have seen safety professionals write out safety documents and then insist on contractors following – this is fraught with risk exposures – There is a balance here that can only be achieved with discussion, asking the right questions and due diligence on your part, which means you won’t take on any more risk than you have to.

Let the team at Sentry help you develop sound risk strategies

Sentry is a recognised expert and leading provider of safety, risk and emergency management solutions in Australia. We provide consultancy services and offer industry compliance management software L.E.V.8™.

Contact us to discuss your event on 1300 736 879 (1300 SENTRY) or email us at

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

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