If you are organising a major event - such as an exhibition, conference or trade show - one of the most important aspects of the planning process will be the risk assessment.

You need to ensure there is an exciting programme of events, and that high-profile organisations are in attendance, but your first priority has to be ensuring the safety of everyone on-site.

The repercussions of accidents and injuries can be far-reaching, particularly if negligence on behalf of the organisers contributed to the incident.

As well as being prosecuted, you may suffer irreparable damage to your reputation, making it impossible to organise other exhibitions, conferences and trade shows in the future.

You may find it impossible to get insurance or secure funding, while businesses and consumers simply won't want anything to do with you.

How to conduct a risk assessment

In UK law, risk assessments are a legal requirement for employers and self-employed people.

They have to take into consideration the health and safety risks arising out of their work, as determined by Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

To conduct a risk assessment, you need to understand what might cause harm to people and property, and then decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. Where action is required, you need to put appropriate and sensible control measures in place to minimise the chances of an incident occurring

It is important to establish what might cause harm, who may be affected and decide on appropriate controls, and then record the risk assessment, review and update it.

As an event organiser, you should be able to show a number of things from your risk assessment.

Firstly, you should have evidence that a proper check was made. Then, you must show that all people who might be affected were considered, that all significant risks were assessed, that the precautions were reasonable and the remaining risk was low.

Fire risk assessments

As an events organiser, one of the risks you will have to account for is fire. Even when safety measures are put in place, it will be impossible to eliminate the likelihood of such an event taking place.

There could a technical fault, or some degree of human error, which leads to an evacuation scenario from the exhibition, conference or trade show venue.

You are required to carry out and maintain a fire safety risk assessment under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which applies in England and Wales, and under Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, this can be carried out either as a separate exercise or as part of a single risk assessment covering other health and safety risks.

"You need to make sure that, based on the findings of the assessment, you take adequate and appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire," the HSE notes.

Minimising the dangers

If potential risk factors have been considered ahead of your event, it allows sensible precautions to be taken to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring.

You can't realistically be expected to account for everything that could possibly go wrong, but adopting a thorough approach to risk management and considering the main potential threats ensures you meet legal requirements.

In most instances, the event will pass without major incident, meaning there is no need for investigators and insurers to refer to the risk assessment.

But for those rare occasions when problems may arise, it is important to prove you have ticked all the boxes in advance.