Festival season is upon us, and as Glastonbury creeps closer, hundreds of thousands of Brits will soon be enjoying a music-filled summer. Outdoor music events are a huge part of British summertime culture, and an estimated 800-1000 festivals occur annually across the UK.
Festivals are high-risk; drinking alcohol in the sun, high-decibel music, and crowds are just some of the hazards you face while on a festival site.
Whether it is your first time ever attending a festival, or you’re a seasoned punter who knows their way around the fields, Nick Higginson, CEO of Phoenix Health & Safety, has provided the top tips you need to know to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you.
Wear suitable clothing and footwear
You can get the miles in as you walk from one stage to the next, and paired with all the dancing you’ll likely be doing, you must look after your feet to prevent injury.
Nick stresses: “While it’s fun to put on colourful and lively outfits, wearing unsupportive shoes like sandals or flip-flops can easily lead to sprained ankles or stepping on something sharp, which could result in the rest of your weekend is a lot less enjoyable.
“Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothing that allows for easy movement, along with closed-toe shoes with good traction and support that can help prevent slips, trips and falls on uneven ground.”
Protect your ears
Being exposed to loud music for an extended period of time can have a long-lasting effect on our hearing, so you must take measures to protect yourself.
Sophy Magee, an audiologist at Boots Hearingcare advises: “Prolonged exposure to loud music (or any excessive levels of noise) can permanently damage the delicate structures of the inner ear and cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Because hearing loss is progressive and doesn’t hurt, people often don’t notice issues until it’s already significant.”
She explains: “The maximum length per day a person should be exposed to loud sounds can be surprising too; for example, at a loud rock concert of 103dB, the sound levels are so great that just 7.5 minutes at this level is recommended. Nobody wants to listen to just 7.5 minutes of their favourite music at a festival!”
“The key is adequate hearing protection; your audiology professional can help. It’s a good idea to use hearing protection with filters, as these lower the sound level but still enables you to hear everything, and it can often sound better too. It’s important to protect your hearing before it’s too late!”
Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun
While the UK isn’t known for its hot summers, it can be susceptible to bouts of heat. Just look at the Boomtown festival last year during an amber warning heatwave. This saw organisers having to ban campfires and warning attendees not to get “beat by the heat”.
Nick says: “Being outdoors in the heat can be physically demanding, especially if you’re on your feet dancing. If you combine this with drinking alcohol, it can easily lead to a level of exhaustion. It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, so make sure you have a large reusable bottle to keep refilling and take regular drinking breaks.”
He continues: “Don’t forget to wear sufficient sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours. The UV rating can be high even on a cloudy day, so don’t leave it to chance. I’d also suggest wearing a hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun’s rays.”
Take sufficient breaks
If you are camping at the festival, you will likely be running on little sleep; you must take regular breaks not to overdo it.
Nick explains: “Not getting enough sleep and then spending hours within a festival drinking and dancing can be exhausting and take a toll on your body. Try to have regular breaks to rest and recharge, find a shaded place to rest away from direct sunlight, perhaps by sitting at the back of a music tent so you can relax but still enjoy the performances.”
Be aware of your surroundings
Some festival sites are huge, and it can often take a while to get your bearings, but getting to know your surroundings is important to ensure the safety of yourself and the people around you.
Nick says: “Get to know your maps and key spots around the site. It’s a good idea to remember where you can find important locations, such as the nearest medical tent or help centre, in case you need to use their services.
“With many festivals, your phones are unlikely to have a strong signal. Make sure you and your friends agree on an easy-to-find meet-up point, such as a unique statue or carnival ride, so it is easy to find each other again if you get separated.
“If you find yourself lost, confused and in need of help, look for a member of staff who will often be wearing hi-vis. They are there to be of service to assist you or point you in the right direction.”
Understand fire hazards
Fires are known to be a problem at festivals. Open campfires, stoves and cigarette butts can be enough to set dry grass up into flames.
Nick shares: “Make sure that if you use fires to cook food, you elevate them from the ground to keep them away from flammable materials such as tents, gazebos and grass. Ensure you never leave a naked flame unattended and put it out properly.
“If you’re a smoker, ensure you don’t drop the end of cigarette buts on the floor as this can set dry grass alight. I recommend buying a cigarette ash pouch, which you can use to dispose of cigarettes to prevent litter.
“If you notice the start of a fire, make sure you notice a festival staff member in hi-vis. There are often staff placed high up on fire towers to look out for the start of a fire so they can be reported and dealt with as soon as possible,” says Nick.