15 March 2013

The full implications of breaking stand build rules and regulations – is your contractor leaving you vulnerable to disaster?

Lee Holloway is director of Fallowfield Partnership, retained Technical Adviser to the ESSA and AEV trade associations, and co-facilitator to the event industry’s health and safety rulebook, the eGuide. Here, he discusses some key areas for exhibitors to be aware of with Peter Bowen C.E.O. of Access Displays Ltd and ESSA board member.

Let’s face it, safety rules and regulations are the last thing you want to worry about when you are planning your exhibition campaign.  You probably reached your bandwidth weeks ago, swamped with pre-event mailings and telephone calls, liaison with your sales and production teams to ensure your stand will hit all the right message points, have the right products and services displayed and work aesthetically and practically (and that’s before you start to arrange hotels, logistics, and the million and one other aspects of the project in order to safeguard your businesses status and reputation at the event in front of your customers, prospects and competitors!)

And to a extent, quite right too.  Your stand design and build company should provide this expertise for you as part of their service.  Their designs and the construction materials they use should reflect all of the requirements that the venue will have for a safe stand plus they should also be able to work with you to ensure that you’re au fait with rules relating to any activities that you’re planning on the stand during open period.

The UK exhibition industry has made it easy for responsible, bona fide stand design and build businesses to understand and comply with venue rules and regulations.  The eGuide is an AEV initiative that effectively implements the same set of stand build rules across fourteen major venues including ExCeL, the NEC and Earls Court.  The eGuide is updated every six months in light of changes to law, HSE guidelines and British Standards and so compliance with it should ensure you are always operating within UK law.  Ask your stand build company if they work in compliance with the eGuide and check that they are referring to the most up to date version.

As well as the rules and regulations required by the venue in the eGuide, there will often also be a handful of event specific regulations set by the organiser.  These may include rules relating to the maximum lengths of unbroken walling, walling height, set-backs (the distance your exhibits need to be from the edge of the stand) and whether rigged structures and graphics are allowed.  These will be found in your exhibitor manual so always make sure you’re aware of these and have told your stand builder about them.

What can happen if these rules are broken?  Well, it depends on the severity of the contravention and the possible outcomes.  You might be asked to undertake costly last minute alterations to the stand that may affect its aesthetics.  You might not be allowed to use planned features, demonstrations or entertainment on the stand.  Worst case, and it does happen occasionally, your stand might be condemned.

Top tips – use an ESSA member if you can, as members are accountable to the association, sign-up to a code of conduct and are kept up to date with eGuide changes.  Ask your stand builder to submit their designs to the organiser for approval early to allow time to action any required changes.  Make sure your stand is built to the specifications and layout shown in the drawings that have been approved – don’t deviate!  If your exhibition is outside of the UK make sure your stand builder understands and is complying with the overseas rules, in particularly with rules relating to fire ratings on materials which can be stricter outside of the UK.

Has your stand design and build company failed to comply with rules and regulations leaving you with a huge headache at the show? We’d love to hear from you.