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EC Event Safety Officers among first to receive accolade

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Thomas Cameron. Photo:SUPPLIED
Thomas Cameron. Photo:SUPPLIED

TWO of the Eastern Cape’s leading safety practitioners, Thomas Cameron, senior disaster management officer for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and Phrosnè Phillips, director of GoSeeDo EC, were recently among the first to be recognised through a certified events safety practitioner designation in April 2021.

SACIA’s event safety council professional designations for event safety officers were approved by the SAQA board on November 20, 2020.

The event safety practitioner and event safety professional designations require applicants to demonstrate their competence via a written exam and provide a portfolio of evidence, supporting their claim.

Five well-known industry experts achieved the designation in April, marking the first formal recognition of individual competence in this field.

A further five applicants are expected to gain their designation within the coming month with more applications under review for the last half of 2021.

Event safety is a relatively new field of specialisation.

This function has typically been provided by security companies, with military or police backgrounds that have previously offered a safety solution as part of their security services.

However, it has become clear that managing safety in the complex event environment is a profession and discipline of its own. While a grounding in occupational health and safety is imperative, it does not meet all the event safety needs in the event space.

Event safety is a process in which on-the-job, relevant event experience is critical when applying event safety principles with OH&S grounding.

The events industry is a relatively new industry within the context of post-apartheid South Africa. There is little formal tertiary level training available and learning is primarily on-the-job, like in the trade environment.

Beyond President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, the first significant events were the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the African Nations Cup in 1996. In the 26 years since then, the event sector has matured quickly and now has major international stadiums in each city and International Convention Centres and Arenas in every major metro. As a result, the demands in event safety have grown exponentially

“This designation is now accessible to everyone who wants to build on a career in event safety, and there is a real need for competent event safety practitioners,” said Cameron. “The event industry is flooded with event organisers, many of whom have neither sufficient experience nor understanding of the importance of dealing with safety and security matters. They also have limited access to safety expertise for their events.

“So, on the one hand, the designation offers event organisers direction when searching for a competent event safety practitioner. On the other, it offers regulatory bodies such as city JOCs an option to consider it as one of their requirements to confirm the competence of the appointed safety officer. I am very pleased to have earned this recognition.”

Phillips is also enthusiastic about her achievement.

“I feel so much more confident in the recognition received, and I know that the designation reassures my clients that their event will be compliant and safe.

“It positions me as an expert in my field, and suddenly, the client focus has changed from a preoccupation with costs to a focus on how well their event safety can be done,” she said.

“I have become part of a community of specialists with whom I can engage and exchange ideas. The document also helps in terms of strengthening applications and tender documents. I am so glad that this is happening and that I am one of the first in the Eastern Cape to have this designation – we have to start somewhere.”

SACIA’s event safety council, an association of event safety specialists and event safety companies in South Africa, has embarked on a journey to achieve recognition as a professional body in the same way that the Engineering Council or the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa (ECA) are recognised.

“A formal designation is the first step in recognising prior learning and understanding. The second step is creating a career path from a zero base to becoming an event safety professional. The third is to include event safety in formal event management courses, and the fourth is providing specific event safety training from ground level up,” said Mike Lord, interim chairperson of SACIA’s event safety council and director of Alliance Safety Management.

The Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, 2010 (SASREA) stipulates that the planning, management and enforcement of safety at events must be handled by people experienced in the field of event safety. The event safety designations formally recognise those with experience and knowledge in event safety within the sector.

As the first of its kind globally to offer an event safety designation, the event safety designation will be a mechanism that will enhance safety standards and practises in South Africa, further advancing our country as a mega-event destination across the world.

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