Event Liability - What Does it Mean?

With the implementation of the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act 2 of 2010, event planners, conference organisers and business owners face a tough regulatory environment. And with greater uncertainty and personal risk in virtually all dimensions of their business, it emphasises the importance of expert risk management and specialist underwriting.

Denise Hattingh, owner and key individual at KEU Underwriting Managers, says one of the biggest changes in the life of an event organiser was the implementation of the Act. "The Act not only protects participants, spectators and their belongings, but also ensures that the planning, management and enforcement of safety is handled by competent people. More importantly, the Act keeps role players accountable," she says.

The most significant implication of the Act is that the event organiser, the sponsor and the venue owners are all deemed responsible for an event. Hattingh adds that the Act makes the sponsor of the event liable for damages, even if they are not the organiser. "Liability and cancellation cover are the most important covers to have. Massive cost implications result from a cancelled event and this obviously applies to liability too," she says.

The Act refers to all events hosted in a venue which can host a minimum of 2 000 people, seating or standing. "Even if you are hosting an event for 300 people, and the venue has a capacity of 2 000 people, the Act will still be applicable," notes Hattingh. The Act stipulates that an event organiser must, submit a schedule of events to the National Commissioner. This allows the National Commissioner to categorise the safety and security risk associated with each event.

The particulars that must be contained in the schedule include the popularity or reputation of any team participating in the event; the expected attendance and historic record of attendance; location; suitability of a stadium, venue or route; spectator facility; level of physical and human resources; safety infrastructure; and any information regarding the consumption and selling of alcohol.

Securing peace of mind

Hattingh has seen some peculiar claims in her time at KEU. "At one mountain biking event, a participant was injured who, as a result of the injury, could not participate in an international cycling event for which they had been preparing. A claim for mental anguish was submitted as the cyclist stated that this was caused after viewing the event on television, without being able to attend in person."

In a separate claim, a tent was blown over by a strong wind and injured some of the spectators. One of these was a child who suffered an asthma attack caused by stress and anxiety after witnessing spectators being injured. In another case, two children were injured at a surfing competition. "While they were watching from the stands, the wind blew an advertising banner over and injured them," says Hattingh.