Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): events sector guidance

Guide for the events sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

14 page PDF

305.2 kB

14 page PDF

305.2 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): events sector guidance
Operational guide and checklist

14 page PDF

305.2 kB

Operational guide and checklist

Changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce – general considerations.

We have produced a checklist for the workplace which includes a list of key risks and controls and communications plan considerations. 

As a minimum we expect:

  • enhanced health and safety measures to be in place before workforce are asked to return to work, including physical distancing guidance and hygiene measures
  • safe travel to work arrangements to be considered as part of a risk assessment, with any relevant adjustments adopted

Enhanced hygiene

Enhanced hygiene measures should be a key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment, including for example:

  • sanitiser and hand-washing facilities should be easily available at key points, including on entry and exit points
  • additional sanitiser and handwash facilities around communal areas
  • regular cleaning of work equipment and work stations including considering how often and where deep cleans may be required
  • minimising the use of touchpoints throughout buildings, including exploring where possible how digital processes or systems may replace the need for face-to-face discussion 
  • consideration of local authority licensing requirements, including around toilet provision where the public are present at an event

Public toilets

Public toilets are defined as any toilets accessible to the public

The opening of public toilets carries with it a risk of transmission of COVID-19 given the low levels of natural light, lack of ventilation, many surfaces to touch and the purpose of a toilet. Therefore, there is a need for careful consideration of how public toilets can be opened as safely as possible. The opening of toilets should be accompanied by local risk assessment, taking into account anticipated access requirements of disabled visitors, and control measures should be proactively monitored by operators. Event organisers should avoid repurposing accessible toilets for general useGuidance on customer and public toilets has been published and should be fully considered by event organisers when undertaking risk assessments and planning an event.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is the other key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Factors event organisers will want to consider include:

  • facility layout and signage with clear marking of two metre boundaries around the workplace and workstations and signage which reinforces expectations of employees at relevant points. (As English may not be the first language for everyone, companies should consider how best to use visual material to reinforce messages)
  • limiting access to parts of the workplace required by an individual to do their job as this will limit the chances for interaction with others
  • staggering entry and exit times to prevent bottlenecks arising as people arrive or leave
  • staggering break times and adjusting canteen arrangements to reduce opportunities for larger numbers of workforce to interact on a face to face basis
  • splitting the workforce into specific teams to avoid cross-team contamination and provide a level of operational resilience in case someone in one team develops COVID-19 symptoms
  • considering opportunities to introduce additional technology support and systems to assist in managing the safe working practices and in particular physical distancing

Shift patterns

Event organisers may develop plans to change shift patterns to both protect the workforce and optimise the operation of an event. This could include considering opportunities to reduce the need for travel at peak times and opportunities for flexible working patterns. This will require proper negotiation with trade union or workforce representatives if it involves a change in employee terms and conditions. 

Dealing with emergencies 

Emergency, evacuation and accident response processes need to be considered by the need to maintain physical distancing to ensure effective arrangements are still in place. However, safety should not be compromised and should take priority over physical distancing in an emergency situation, for example dealing with a medical emergency or evacuation due to fire. Everyone onsite should be familiar with new processes and a clear lead should be identified.

Travel to work

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The HPS advice, and any subsequent safe travelling advice, such as that provided by Transport Scotland, should be factored into decisions on planned returns to work, including that face coverings are mandatory on public transport and public transport premises, such as train stations and airports, from 22 June 2020. 

Consideration should be given to any travel around or between event venues (for example large outdoor sites or where the workforce work across a number of venues).

Personal Protective Equipment  (PPE)

PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. Occupations should continue to use any PPE required as per local policies (business as usual) and there are no requirements for additional PPE to be worn. HPS guidance offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming that workplaces should only use PPE which is consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment. 

Both HPS and the HSE recommend a risk-based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to reduce or eliminate risks. This is achieved by combatting risks at source, adapting workplaces to individual needs, ensuring adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and use PPE - where required. Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply of the correct materials and items must be maintained and provided free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly. 

Face coverings

People must by law wear a face covering in shops and on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports. 

It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Face masks are surgical or medical grade masks that are used in health and social care situations. The use of face masks is not currently recommended for the general population. There is no evidence of benefit to support the use of face masks outside healthcare environments. Face coverings are made from cloth or other textiles that cover the mouth and nose, and through which you can breathe (e.g. a scarf).

Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Therefore the wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions. There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your mouth and nose. Face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context. Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling workers:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practice social distancing wherever possible

We have published guidance on use of face coverings. The guidance also contains detail of exemptions and reasonable excuses not to wear a face covering.


The interpretation and use of any guidance should be considered in line with normal protective security operations and practices. Event organisers should consult with and involve their security lead or contractor in the interpretation and implementation of the guidance. In particular, security should be considered in any revised risk assessment.

Under no circumstances do we advise the removal or alteration of, or reduction in, existing protective security measures without providing clear recommendations (e.g. from the National Technical Authority/police CT specialists) on how to maintain effective protective security. 

This should extend to measures not primarily intended to provide a protective security benefit, but nonetheless doing so, for example removal of street furniture that could make moving or queueing pedestrians more vulnerable to vehicle-as-a-weapon attacks. Security staff should remain focused on security duties. Where COVID-19 creates additional staffing requirements, e.g. for queue management employers should ensure additional suitable staff resource is made available. Employers should ensure security staff feel safe, e.g. having access to appropriate PPE and hand-washing facilities, and that they are able and confident to raise any concerns.

Further detailed guidance on security is available from the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure and UK Government.

Guidance for businesses preparing food

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has designed guidance to supplement their general guidance for consumers and food businesses.  It adapts the Scottish Government  ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): business and physical distancing guidance’ and the advice published by Health Protection Scotland for Non-Healthcare settings for application in food settings. This guidance also takes account of guidelines produced by the food industry on practical ways to provide a safe working environment at this time. FSS has also produced Guidance for the businesses take-away sector.

Businesses with queries or concerns regarding food safety practices in their premises should contact they local authority environmental health department for advice.

COVID symptoms within the workplace

The virus is expected to remain in the population for some time, even after lockdown restrictions have been eased and people begin to return to work. This will cause anxiety for people who will also want to understand how any outbreaks at an event will be handled. If an event organiser knows or suspect that either a member of the workforce or a attendee has tested positive for COVID-19 or is symptomatic they should follow the health advice provided by NHS Inform and advise the individual to seek the appropriate medical advice. Event organisers should follow the HPS Information and Guidance for General (Non-Healthcare) Settings (in particular sections 1.7,1.8 and 1.9). This should also be covered communications with the workforce and in workforce training. Remember, if it is a member that if a member of the workforce is affected the employer has a duty of care for their wellbeing and that of the other staff.

The workforce have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice which says people with symptoms should remain at home and self-isolate. Event organisers and the workforce should remain in regular communication throughout any period of self-isolation.

Key risk factors for events

When deciding whether an event should proceed, event organisers will want to consider the following key risk factors, using a risk matrix to do so:

Whether an event is taking place indoors or outdoors:

Generally there is a lower risk of transmission when outdoors compared to when indoors. This is likely to have an impact on what mitigation measures are appropriate.

Crowd density:

Whether it is possible to put in place physical distancing for attendees and employees in order to reduce the risk of transmission. This will be affected by the capacity and layout of the venue. For some events, more space may be needed for queuing, internally and externally. The event footprint may need to be very different. For some venues this may mean closing roads or pavements which will require discussion with the local authority. The time taken to enter the venue should be considered and built into the communication plan.  A particular consideration may be that events usually have specific start and end time, leading to many people wanting to arrive and leave at the same time. During these times it may be more difficult to maintain physical distancing, particularly for those reliant on public transport. Consideration should be given as to the ability to stagger arrival and exit of attendees and put any other mitigations in place.  

If an event can take place behind closed doors or on a broadcast only basis:

This will limit the number of people present, lowering the risk of transmission, and may make it easier to ensure physical distancing. Putting appropriate measures in place to protect performers and the workforce will still be important. Organisers should remain aware of the potential risk of people gathering on the perimeter of such an event to try to watch it and consider how this will be addressed. Interdependencies for this type of event, for example need for accommodation and transport, should continue to be considered.


Events that involve the workforce or attendees travelling internationally are likely to carry a higher risk of transmission than events where the workforce and attendees are from the local area. Travelling short distances by walking, cycling or driving is likely to be lower risk than traveling by public transport.


Having a large number of people travel to a rural or island location for an event may place a significant strain on local public services, including the NHS, in the event of an outbreak. Organisers should consider local community impact. They should consult with local authorities, local Health Protection Teams and other local public services when planning events, with local authorities assessing the extent to which local consultation is necessary. Local communities should be involved where appropriate to ensure they understand safety measures that will be in place.

Demographics of attendees:

Certain groups are at higher risk from coronavirus, such as those over 70 and those from BAME backgrounds. Organisers should consider whether their likely audience is a group at higher risk from coronavirus and if so whether the event should take place.

Duration of event:

Longer, for example multi-day events with overnight stays are likely to be higher risk than events of a short duration. Longer events may increase requirements for luggage or other cloakroom storage which carry an additional level of risk though contact with surfaces.

Page last updated: 20 July 2020

First published: 30 Jul 2020 Last updated: 4 Aug 2020 -