wedding venue

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Wedding venue safety guide

Ensure their big day is memorable for the right reasons

Weddings should be a memorable event which a couple can look back on as the best day of their lives – but there is so much that can go wrong. A joke in bad taste by the best man, a glass of red wine spilled on a white dress, or an overcooked salmon entrée can all be upsetting for a bride and groom.

Owners of venues hosting wedding celebrations have a role to play in making the event memorable for the right reasons, and while they aren’t responsible for advising against one-liners about the mother-in-law, there are serious health and safety considerations.

Older buildings in rural locations can provide a picturesque backdrop for wedding photographers which is one reason why they are so popular with wedding parties.

The trend for rural venues tapping into this ‘potentially lucrative business’ is one which Country Life notes requires 'planning, flexibility and considerable flair’ but it is also one that comes with particular legal responsibilities.

By inviting people to your venue you are assuming a duty of care. You must ensure that people are in a safe environment – that includes guests and anyone working at your premises.

Fire safety

You must carry out a fire risk assessment which identifies all sources of ignition, fuel / combustible material and oxygen and where possible separate these or put suitable controls in place to reduce the possibility of a fire occurring.

Adequate safety measures should also be in place in the event of a fire, including:

  • automatic fire detection system and alarms
  • manual call points for occupants to raise the alarm
  • fully maintained and appropriate fire extinguishers at suitable locations
  • clear exits to provide access to a place of safety
  • signage to guide occupants towards a safe exit route from the site.

Other measures include emergency and escape lighting as well as an ongoing maintenance plan for all installed equipment.

Electrical safety

Maintenance of electrical systems is important as a control in managing fire risks but also as part of general safety on site as occupants are likely to be using electrical equipment such as computers, overhead projectors, microphones and amplifiers.

All electrical work should be carried out by a competent electrician, ideally one which has some form of trade association.

Maintenance of the electrical installation should be carried out frequently as recommended by your electrician, however, a full condition report is likely to be required every three to five years.

Violence and aggression

The likelihood of people showing signs of violence and aggression at wedding is low although anywhere that alcohol is being served can add a layer of unpredictability.

Weddings are often times of heightened emotions, large numbers of people in close proximity and loosened inhibitions – a potential cocktail for misbehaviour.

Venues must ensure they have adequate staffing levels to cope with a large number of guests and that employees working on site are trained dealing correctly with violent and aggressive guests.

Food preparation

If you supply food as part of the hire of the venue, you must make sure that the facilities available are suitable and that it is prepared by people who have been trained in safe food handling. Facilities should include:

  • Sufficient refrigeration
  • Suitable preparation surfaces
  • Hand washing facilities
  • Separate storage areas for cleaning chemicals
  • Equipment which is in good condition
  • Effectively trained food handlers

All food businesses must produce a food safety management plan. For advice about hygiene regulations, read the Food Standards Agency’s Safer Food, Better Business guide.

Other issues

The types of risks present in a venue will depend on the types of events held. Examples of issues to consider are:

  • Cellar safety – the handling of cellar gases and management of cellars requires training. Risks can include explosion, fire, release of hazardous gases and consumption of chemicals (from the cleaning of beer lines)
  • Noise – where the venue has live entertainment, staff noise exposure needs to be considered and assessed to determine if exposure is at a level which legally requires you to take action
  • Slips and trips – this risk must be assessed in all venues however the risks may be greater within venues where lighting levels are reduced and where people are handling drinks