Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): events sector guidance

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

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

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.

Physical distancing requirements are set out in the schedules of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020

Factors event organisers will want to consider include:

  • facility layout and signage with clear marking of one 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

Limits to households mixing indoors and outdoors

The limits on households mixing indoors and outdoors apply to all sectors and are critically important. Businesses must ensure staff are aware of the limits when taking bookings and that they are ready to challenge any attempt to make bookings for numbers that clearly exceed the limits. Staff should ask whether limits on mixing of households is being observed when taking enquiries and either reject a booking request which would exceed the limits or offer an alternative for a booking within the limits. Please refer to the up to date guidance for the current rules as these may change in line with developments.  Children under 12 do not count towards the number of people or households meeting. Where it is obvious groups of attendees are starting to congregate (in either indoor or outdoor service spaces) and exceeding the limits then advice should also be offered on the limits for mixing of households. For further advice consult guidance on meeting others.

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. The Strategic Framework includes measures on travel. There are limited exceptions to making journeys into and out of Level 3 and 4 areas or their equivalents in other parts of the UK. Check the latest guidance for permitted reasons for travel.

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

This information relates to the use of face coverings in public spaces and workplaces where physical distancing is not always possible. It is important to follow all other government public health advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly workplace guidance for staff working in these settings.

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may provide some additional protection, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces, and where distancing is not possible. 

People must, by law, (with the exceptions set out below) wear a face covering in shops, on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports, and in certain other indoor public places such as restaurants/cafes including workplace canteens (when not seated), and places of worship.

In workplaces (other than an early learning or school setting), you are legally obliged to wear a face covering in communal areas indoors, unless exempt.

You should continue to follow the workplaces guidance on the Scottish Government website and should endorse and support staff to wear face coverings in all areas of the workplace, including those mandated by law, and to follow best practice in the use of face coverings.

Whilst it is not compulsory to wear a face covering outdoors it is recommended in crowded situations where physical distancing is not always possible, for example at the entrance to a building or venue. In these circumstances you are expected to wear a face covering.

Your risk assessments should also be continually reviewed and assessments made as to whether adequate mitigations are in place and whether additional measures are needed, such as the use of face coverings in spaces other than those mandated by law. We encourage regular review of risk assessments, particularly in light of the new variants. 


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 their 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 in communications with the workforce and in workforce training. Remember, 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.

The Scottish Government does not recommend the use of temperature checking the workforce or attendees at an event as a means of testing for COVID-19 due to the low efficacy rate of this method. Further information about the reliability of temperature checking as a test for COVID-19 can be found on the MHRA website.

Collection of customer contact details

Event organisers should have in place a system to collect the contact details of attendees, visitors, and workforce in support of Test and Protect. This information should be handled at all times in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations and should be stored for at least 21 days. The checklist associated with this guidance sets out details of what information should be collected and data protection considerations.

This will ensure that in the event of an outbreak or cluster of cases, it will be possible for public health officers, as part of Test and Protect, to get in touch with anyone present at the same time as an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 and will help to break chains of transmission, while continuing to allow us to attend events and support local businesses.

For events in restaurants, cafes, bars, public houses and hotels only, failure to have the required arrangements in place will be punishable by a Fixed Penalty Notice under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, and ultimately a continuing failure could be enforced by repeated fines of up to £960.

We have produced guidance on collection of customer contact details. We have also published guidance specifically for hospitality businesses.  Published advice on the use of the Check-in Scotland app should also be considered by events organisers as a means of facilitating the digital collection of contact details.

Key risk factors for events

Depending on the prevailing protection level for the local area, 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. For example, ventilation is particularly important to consider for indoor events. The Scottish Government has published guidance on ventilation.

Crowd density:

In order for an event to take place, event organisers should ensure that capacity of attendees has been calculated to allow 1 metre physical distancing at all times.  This will be affected by the 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. Pinch points such as entry, exit, stairs, escalators, vomitories, toilets and refreshment areas should be considered to ensure distancing can be maintained. 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 a 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 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.


Organisers should communicate to attendees that separate households should not share cars to travel to/from events and that for drive-in events there should only be one household, or extended household per vehicle.

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. To suppress the spread of COVID-19 it is essential that, with limited exceptions, there is no travel to or from areas where large numbers of people may be infected. Event organisers should check further guidance on travel and 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 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. 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.

First published: 3 Dec 2020 Last updated: 28 Jul 2021 -