I know people find health and safety boring boring boring!
I’ve been performing magic professionally for over 17 years, and in that time I have seen quite a few incidents, accidents and many “Near misses” at the parties and events where I’ve performed. Most of these situations were avoidable, or the very least would have caused less trouble if some basic precautions had been taken. So here are a few recommendations, based on my experience, for you to consider when planning your party.
Firstly, make sure you know about the venue that you have hired. Check out where the fire extinguishers are and any fire exits. The caretaker should be able to point these out to you. But if you just pick up the keys then it’s worth checking where everything is. Make sure you know is the correct address and postcode, just in case you need to call the emergency services. In my career I have been at three events parties where are the Fire Brigade had to be called and at least half a dozen where paramedics were needed. You’ll be peased to hear I wasn’t involved in any of those incidents!
Make sure your venue is free from hazards. Most Village halls and community centres are used by many clubs organisations and even preschools. They will have a lot of equipment stored in the hall, and it is quite often left lying about. I recall once having to help a parent clear away some very sharp chisels and other tools left behind by a woodworking club.
Check everything is safe in the kitchen. Many halls have older kitchens with big tea urns and other hazards. Most five-year olds haven’t seen a tea urn before and might assume it is a harmless drinks dispenser! I would recommend bringing antibacterial spray etc so you can clean all the surfaces. I was once contacted after a party by parents who were concerned that I might have caught a bug! It seems everybody else at the party did, apparently caused by unclean worktops. Luckily I didn’t have anything to eat at the party!
Check all the tables and chairs are safe, set up properly and stacked correctly. I have seen a child nearly hurt by falling chairs (which I prevented) and even had a folding table collapse on me because it wasn’t set up properly by a parent.
Be aware of other hazards. You may recall reading the news recently about a young boy who had been killed by falling mirror in a shop. I saw something very similar nearly happen in the hotel function room. The room did contain a very lovely decorative Victoria mirror, but just as I was leaving a child ran into it. Fortunately the the child was not hurt, but a very nice mirror was ruined!
Try to block off access to the stage and other unsafe areas. Many halls have a stage with curtains, lighting and usually a lot of clutter. The combination of wires, cords, scenery and darkness is of course very very dangerous. So draw the curtains and block of the steps to the stage. Many stages have portable steps that can be safely removed well away from danger.
Keep an eye on the children. They are perhaps the most volatile thing at the whole party! A good entertainer will take the children’s energy and use it in his show or party games to help add to the fun. Of course, some children can become too boisterous and perhaps need to be reminded how to behave. This responsibility lies firmly with you, the parents.
Beware of candles, sparklers and party poppers. In another post, I discuss some of the safety issues surrounding candles and sparklers. Please take great care with heading out party poppers, especially to the very young. If I get to meet you, I’ll show you the small scar on my right hand (which I’m sure you appreciate is very precious to me!) which was caused when I put my hand between a party popper that was about to be pulled and a four year old’s eyes.
Be careful about allowing dogs into the party. 30 noisy children, running around playing games and having fun can get dogs very excitable! On one occasion, the parents of a guest bought a dog along to a party a friend of mine was working at. Good old Fido sat quietly in the back until he could contain his excitement no more. He broke loose and started running after the children, causing many of them to become frightened and tearful. I for one do not allow dogs into parties where I am working for this very reason.
Having dumped all this on to you… Please don’t panic!
This is all common sense, but it is worth taking time to think about these things in advance because on the day of the party you will have a lot on your mind.
One thing that might help put your mind at rest is that I have Health and Safety policy. This is something I require for some of my corporate clients. I know it sounds boring and rubbish, but it does help me think about the working situations that I find myself in. So wherever I work – I always keep an eye out the things that might pose a problem so that you and I can deal with them.
This is all just part of the service!
Whatever you do for your children’s birthday – have a happy healthy safe party!