Art exhibitions are busy at the best of times. With thousands of visitors passing through galleries showcasing priceless exhibits (that can be heavy and unstable) the health and safety requirements for companies installing the exhibition can be challenging. And add to this the time pressure that exhibition installers normally experience when creating a gallery, then the potential for harm, or even serious injury, is significant.
At MCD Construction we have been building and installing exhibition spaces for over 20 years. And we understand the tension between ensuring that we provide a safe environment for visitors to the gallery, and employees, whilst meeting the artist's requirements. Here are some things that we like to consider, and our thanks go to Jeff Manion, Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner, who works closely with us to ensure that our risk management is always in line with legislation and good practice.
What should I consider when creating an exhibition space?
Health and safety is all about risk management. So it is essential to consider what has been asked for, what are the risks, which are significant, and how they can be managed. Managing risk should be an integral part of the business strategy, as should ensuring all go home safe and well after a days work (maybe a bit of dirt under the nails, or hair not perfectly combed, but nothing else!).
So once you've identified the significant hazards, and measured the risks, you need to consider what you need to do to ensure that you manage them safely. Training is essential, as is having the right equipment. You might need to consider how a job is done, and how many people will be needed for it.
A positive safety culture is also a priority so that your team know that they are valued, and that working safely is the norm. This is also important for your client so that they can see that health and safety is high on your agenda. They will not want to put any of their visitors (nor employees) at risk, nor face adverse publicity, or even legal action if something goes wrong. Managing risk might seem like a chore at times, but the benefits to a business far outweigh the costs.
What should I have in place?
It is essential that you have a health and safety policy in place, as well as written risk assessments available. Your team need to be aware of the policy and the assessments, as should any contractor who you employ. If you are going to bring in outside contractors make sure that they have a policy and assessment in place because if something goes wrong you may be liable.
You also need the co-operation of the gallery that you are working at so that they will help you to ensure the safety, health and well being of your employees.
At MCD Construction we take health and safety seriously. This has helped us to maintain staff, reduce insurance costs, and work in a safe way that has been of influence with securing contracts.