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Assessing crowd safety risks: a research into the application of the risk assessment principles to improve crowd safety management and planning in major public venues

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posted on 25.10.2010, 11:52 authored by Siu Yam Zachary Au
This thesis considers the subject of crowd safety and investigates how the application of risk assessment can provide support for decision making in crowd safety management and planning. The focus is on major public venues and events where large crowds arc a normal part of the operation. Conventional methods of assessment tend to be ad hoc, reactive and rely on individual experiences. The risk assessment approach, which is comprehensive, systematic and pro-active, can help to overcome these shortfalls. Risk assessments have already been successfully applied in many workplaces, ranging from high hazard industrial plants to the office environment. However, this thesis argues that for it to be of benefit, the risk assessment must be appropriate to the nature of the operation and the nature and the extent of the hazards involved. The existing risk assessments are inappropriate to crowd safety in this respect and a more suitable methodology is required. As there is little published research knowledge on the subject, two case studies and a survey of public venue assessors were conducted to collect the necessary information and data. A task analysis was also performed to examine the tasks involved in assessing crowd safety risks and identify the factors that enable the assessors to successfully complete their I tasks. It has found that crowd safety hazards are very different to those encountered in other contexts where existing risk assessments are applied. In addition to the kind of hazards one would normally encounter in a work situation, the presence of large crowds also presents a set of hazards that are unique to major public venues. Findings of the venue survey suggest that existing risk assessments are inadequate, particularly in dealing with this type of crowd and behaviour related hazards, and venue assessors are experiencing difficulties in identifying such hazards and assessing their risks. By and large, the experiments and questionnaire survey have served to verify, at least in part, the arguments that risk assessment is better than the conventional assessment method and that there are more benefits to be gained when the risk assessment is more appropriate to the nature and the extent of the crowd safety hazards that could arise in major public venues. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that the research work presented in this thesis is merely the first step towards a crowd safety risk assessment methodology. There are outstanding issues yet to be resolved, not least the issue of the apparent lack of consistency over time in risk evaluation. This thesis has identified the research and development work that is required to resolve these issues and to further the benefits that risk assessment could bring to crowd safety.


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Loughborough University

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© Siu Yam Zachary Au

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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Andrew Shepherd

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