The Primary Authority scheme can help reassure arts organisations they are meeting legal requirements on health and safety, trading standards and fire regulations, explains Rob Belton.
Primary Authority regulation allows an arts organisation to form a legal partnership with a local authority (known as the primary authority). The primary authority can then provide consistent regulatory advice that makes it simpler and easier to comply with legislation relating to environmental health, trading standards and fire safety. Enforcing authorities should respect this advice when regulating your business.
In a typical theatre, the business would look for advice on health and safety procedures, allergen information in its café or fire safety advice on evacuation procedures
Participating in Primary Authority can give arts organisations, particularly venues, greater confidence in their regulated activities and reduce the risk of contravening legislation. Provided that the advice given is followed, they can be confident they are complying with the law. It can also help organisations that operate as part of a group - such as theatre groups.
There are two ways to participate in Primary Authority:
- by forming a partnership with a local authority – a direct partnership
- by being a member of a trade association or other group with a primary authority – a co-ordinated partnership.
Direct partnerships can work well for organisations:
- with complex needs best addressed through tailored advice
- with operations across a number of local authority areas
- that spend significant time and resources on their compliance activities
- that would benefit from having a single point of contact with a local authority.
This ensures that arts organisations can invest with confidence in products, practices and procedures, knowing that the resources they devote to compliance are well spent. In a typical theatre, the business might look for advice on health and safety procedures, allergen information about products in its café or fire safety advice on evacuation procedures. The advice received can be used in criminal and civil cases to prove compliance (provided all the advice has been closely followed).
The incident in 2016 at the Royal Opera House that resulted in a stage curtain weighing half a tonne falling close to an employee is one example of the kind of issue where the scheme could provide concise, statutory advice on policy and procedures for arts organisations.
Finding a partner
So how can the arts sector benefit from Primary Authority and what do organisations need to do to join? You can seek out a partner from any local authority that provides it (currently about 50%), making sure it matches your requirements. You can then identify the risks in your sector and draw up an action plan. Working with a coordinator makes this process simpler, as they can provide advice, guidance and solutions on joining the scheme and making the most of its benefits.
Rob Belton is Director of Belton Regulatory Ltd.