The UK has some of the most stringent Health & Safety standards in the world. Most blue chip companies go even further than the prescribed standards to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. Yet the majority of companies employ team building providers without checking up on their own policies and procedures. In effect, they are handing over the wellbeing of their employees to companies that do not have the same standards as they do and in some cases, to companies that have no standards at all.
This is not to say that these companies are purposefully dangerous, but some teambuilding providers are undersized and lack the resources to set up and run acceptable Health & Safety policies on an ongoing basis.
In my experience, less than 10% of companies so much as enquire about Health & Safety when planning teambuilding events and the vast majority fail to check whether or not event providers even carry adequate insurance. This is a shocking fact and I believe that it is caused by that dangerous adversary of risk management – assumption.
It is very difficult to assess the size and operational standards of a company from its website. A company may appear to be an international operator with hundreds of employees when in actual fact it’s a ‘one man band’ trading from a spare bedroom. When booking a teambuilding event, it is essential that you request reassurance in the form of copies of insurance cover documents, a written Health & Safety policy and risk assessments of each of the activities being undertaken. This is a simple process. Documents need to be seen and dates need to be checked to ensure that they are current.
Every activity provided by an event company should have a unique risk assessment. In some cases, there is clearly no risk at all, yet the procedure must still be undertaken. In such cases, the risk assessment will read “this activity has been assessed and classified as low risk”, with the name of the assessor who undertook the risk assessment. Furthermore, companies should have a designated Health & Safety officer who has undergone training and is sufficiently experienced to recognise potential risks.
The key document to consider in this process is the risk assessment document. This supports the investigation of the activity by the provider. A risk assessment ensures that potential dangers have been considered and that steps have been taken to minimise risk. Activities are then classified as being either low, medium or high risk. You may decide to avoid high-risk activities during your event. Risk assessments are living documents, in that activity providers should update them along with lessons learned as they practice.
When choosing medium or high-risk activities, it would be sensible to ask the activity company how many times it has provided these activities before. You may wish to avoid undertaking a high-risk activity if the company is providing it for the first time.
Two sections make up the corporate event industry, that is the companies operating on static sites and those with a mobile operation that travel to venues. In most cases, the event will be held on a field, often close to the hotel at which the client company is staying. It is essential that any company providing teambuilding events visits the site before hand in order to assess the land. It is not enough to use a map as there may be trees in dangerous locations, particularly regarding motorised vehicles such as quad bikes or dune buggies. In some cases, land can be littered with dangerous scrap metal or broken glass.
When staging events in water, the water should have recently been tested. In water parks or regularly used locations this is likely to be a standard undertaking, but in some cases, a pond or waterhole may be used for bridge building or raft racing. This should be tested for bacteria and other relative risks, as it is dangerous to use an area of water without considering this.
There are many other areas that, when staging a sound teambuilding event, will cover all aspects of Health & Safety. These areas take time and effort to set up and need to be maintained and updated on an ongoing basis. All event management companies should have sound Health & Safety procedures in place. This will only improve if more clients demand to see them.
- Encourage universal cooperation among team members by separating them into small groups. This helps them work together by supporting each other.
- Identify non-value-added aspects of work such as bureaucracy, reworking and inefficiency, which destroy feelings of commitment. Involve team members in action plans and reduce ineffective work.
- Build a strong and well-established relationship between the organisation and its customers. Involve your customers in various events, training programmes and celebrations. This will help you to dictate the qualities and effectiveness of your products and services in the presence of a huge number of people.
- Give autonomy to the team and keep everything as simple as possible. Don’t complicate things unnecessarily. Keep the rules, regulations, systems and principles lenient.
- Develop a healthy environment by promoting humour and entertainment sessions. This can help to release tensions and to improve the power of determination. Ensure that the ‘humours’ don’t disguise insults among team members.
- Share your ‘cup of tea’ with your team members. Tell them your life experiences of how you’ve crossed certain obstacles and been through tough times to reach where you are today. This will motivate them and will help to build an even stronger organisation.
- Avoid disagreements and miscommunications as these can lead to negative emotions and can hamper feelings of unity.
- Place a notice board with applause for members in a visible area and encourage the entire organisation to acknowledge the worth of team spirit.
- Recognise and celebrate all the significant activities and milestones reached. Try to approach all with a positive attitude, developing the feeling of “we will win”.