After two years of restrictions on public gatherings across the world, nothing could be more welcome than the post-Covid return of live events.
But the revival doesn’t just bring with it entertainment and excitement. It also brings danger.
This is due to the increased safety risks for juveniles, according to Juan José Villa, who was recently elected president of the Spanish Motor Vehicle Trade Confederation AFIAL.
Vila recently answered questions from AV Magazine, following a successful trade show held by this association of manufacturers and importers of AV technology – and outlined a broad agenda as chair that includes lobbying government, highlighting the role of women, increasing membership of the association and developing closer collaboration with international bodies such as PLASA and AVIXA
But it was safety that attracted the most attention.
Villa, who is also CSO at Equipson and Fantek, says he has always been passionate about worker safety at live events and especially about protocols around the safe use of props, motor winches, stage platforms and rigging.
Over the years he has participated in committees in Spain and across Europe to improve standards, including the CTN311 Normalization Committee in Spain and two working groups of the TC433 Committee in Europe.
But event safety has become a much bigger concern this summer, as we’ve seen an exponential increase in the number of live events.
Many of the companies participating in these events wanted to recover lost revenue during the Covid pandemic. But because the staff had moved around and materials were hard to come by, they had a struggle when it came to finding trained people, materials and money to carry out the work,” says Villa.
Over the summer, he became aware of a number of small accidents, but things came to a head when a podium collapsed at a major event near his hometown in August.
“When I heard the news, I felt enough was enough,” he says. “As an industry, we need to do everything we can to prevent these accidents from happening. We may not have as many injuries and fatalities as the construction industry, for example, but we are more visible, and we can’t afford even one. Nobody wants to go out to have a good time.” And dying in the process.”
The Spanish trade association AFIAL already promotes best practices through its fraud book, and Fila personally funds the creation and distribution of safety videos so that best practices become more widely known.
AFIAL held its first ever Safety Forum in Live Events at its Trade Fair 2022. It took place from October 25-27 in Madrid. There have been safety seminars and panels at the fair, and the association plans to organize more forums to focus attention on this important area.
“Companies need to follow protocols and guidelines that are already in place and be willing to say no to work if they don’t have the staff and resources to do the job right,” says Villa.
We know this is difficult, especially when we are all trying to recoup the losses of the pandemic, but we must understand what is at stake if we don’t do the right thing. Insurance does not cover these events if we are liable, and there can be serious legal ramifications. It makes sense for everyone to be aware of safety issues so that we can avoid hurting anyone and avoid going to jail.”
AFIAL’s goal for the coming year is to welcome technical directors and inspectors who work with local government to teach them about safety issues and make them more aware of what might go wrong.
“We need to train both sides and get everyone to work together. We also need to make the promoters and public authorities responsible for putting on shows aware of the importance of proper safety financing,” says Villa.
He recommends that anyone involved in live events or manufacture equipment for live events study the codes of practice issued by the European Safety Committees. These include EN 17206 which covers machinery for stages and other production areas and EN 17115 which covers the design and manufacture of aluminum and steel supports.
While juvenile safety is important, it is just one part of the work that AFIAL does. Its annual trade fair has attracted nearly 200 exhibitors this year, many of them global brands, bringing together the AV, broadcast and system integration sectors. The exhibition featured a seminar program covering topics such as future legislation, audience management at large events, training and certification. It also shined a spotlight on women in the industry and highlighted their importance as a producer, director, stage manager and lighting designer. There are plans to expand the exhibition next year.
As President of AFIAL for two years, Villa is keen to foster close collaboration with other national and international organizations such as PLASA and AVIXA where there are common goals.
There is already a “strong collaboration” with PLASA, in fact. “Our bonds with PLASA during the pandemic were strengthened when AFIAL collaborated on the #WeMakeEvents campaign, in which I was personally involved,” says Villa. “I believe that working with other organizations in our industry will allow us all to achieve more and I want my presidency to reflect this view.”
He also wants AFIAL to offer more business-oriented activities that will help the Spanish AV industry succeed in meeting current challenges.
“We need to pressure government to get the rights we deserve – for example a dedicated SIC code, allowances for wider frequency ranges for wireless microphones, and recognition that our sector has been among those hardest hit by the pandemic because so many people have been unable to occupy.”
A safer industry with activities such as the Safety Forum, raising awareness about women in the industry, and getting more Spanish companies to join the AFIAL Association are all on the agenda.
AFIAL will turn 20 next year and it is important to increase its membership. “There is strength in numbers, especially when we are negotiating with the government at the national and local level,” says Villa.