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The tragedy at the Astroworld music festival has again raised serious concerns about safety at large crowded events.

Ten people have died so far – the youngest victim was just nine years old - and many more were injured at a concert by rap star Travis Scott in Huston, Texas, on November 5 2021.

Details are still emerging about what happened, and an investigation is underway, but questions are being raised about whether crowd control measures, security and policing were adequate. And if failings are identified, who was at fault?

As COVID restrictions ease - and we enter festival season in Australia - many more of us will again be venturing out to large public events, and wondering; What measures should be in place to protect people? Who’s responsible for health and safety? Who is liable if something goes wrong?

Who is legally responsible for safety at events in Australia?

Responsibility can fall on a number of different people or organisations.

Event organisers, security company, contractors who set out the event, may all share a duty of care to ensure safety and avoid injury of patrons.

Organisers are responsible for making sure appropriate steps are taken to minimise risks to the public and provide a safe environment for performers, workers and attendees.

Guidelines differ from state to state, but generally, before an event gets the go-ahead organisers must have:

  • Carried out a comprehensive risk assessment.
  • Secured a suitable venue so crowd density is safe and comfortable.
  • Installed adequate crowd control measures, such as barriers, where necessary.
  • Hired enough appropriately trained staff.
  • Produced a detailed emergency management plan.

This emergency plan usually includes information about who is in charge in the event of an emergency, what medical facilities are on stand-by, staffing levels, plans for crowd management and details about the venue capacity and layout.

Organisers will have to coordinate with emergency services and other local government agencies.

Who is in charge of policing large events?

It depends – the owner / occupiers, event organisers, the security company, contractors who set out the event. It can be a combination.

For example, security should monitor crowd control and keep a look out for problems, such as too many people funnelling in one spot.

But they may be relying on barriers or fencing to keep crowds contained. This also illustrates the importance of erecting adequate fencing to avoid overcrowding in certain areas.

If they fail due to a contractor using inferior equipment or not following specifications, it can lead to serious safety issues.

Large events tend to be complex. When something goes wrong, it is likely there would be more than one defendant who might at fault.

Scrutiny will focus on the role of all the organisation responsible for safety – from set up and engaging expert security and other contractors, fencing, equipment barricades and so on.

Talk to one of our specialist public liability lawyers today

If you've been hurt in a public place, including a sports field, path or in a store, our experienced team can help.