Seating Audiences Safely

Date: 28.06.2017     Last updated: 28.06.2017 at 15.43
This Safety Guideline concerns the safe design and construction of temporary seating for audiences at our events or shows.

This Guideline should be read in conjunction with our Guideline to Temporary Stages and Rostra (see Related Topics). The Guildeine is not aimed at arenas, theatres and other similar venues which have fixed seating for their audiences, though some of the information provided here may be relevant to these also.

What Can Go Wrong?

  • Collapse of structure / seating
  • Blocked/restricted access / egress to exits and fire exits
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Falls from height
  • Restricted audience movement / difficult audience management.

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • Productions are to engage a competent designer to design audience seating structures
  • Designers often sub-contract this element of their design to a seating contractor/structural company who will build/assemble the structure on site. The design risk assessment should include this and provide details of the required control measures that are to be put in place
  • Building Regulations, industry guidance and British Standards must be adhered to (such as BS EN 13200, BS 6399, BS 9999 and Approved Documents such as Part K) when designing audience seating
  • Risk assessments should be obtained from the contractor erecting the seating.

Control Measures

  • The maximum loading of seating structures/rostrums are to be calculated by a competent person (engagement of a Structural Engineer is recommended)
  • The designer should factor in the intended use of the seating by audience (for example, whether the audience will remain seated, or whether they will jump up and down, stamp their feet, Mexican wave etc.) and any other dynamic movements or low frequency vibration
  • The completed structure should be checked against the design by a competent person (designer and or structural engineer and or construction company representative) and handed over to the Production as fit for use
  • Escape routes which factor in travel distance, number of people and the size/number of available exits are to be considered when designing audience seating
  • The maximum loading and capacity is to be communicated to Production who is responsible for managing the access and use of the completed seating structure
  • Seats should be arranged to allow ease of access/egress for audience
  • Seats should be constructed / dressed in flame proof/retardant materials
  • The method of constructing / assembling, fixing and securing seating structures should be appropriate to the size, height and use of the structure
  • Seats should be adequately secured to prevent overturning or moving which may lead to audience members becoming trapped or falling over the dislodged seats
  • The design should bear in mind the comfort of the audience taking into account the duration of the Production so there is adequate space for individuals to sit, with consideration of leg room and visual obstructions
  • The Work at Height Regulations stipulate that, for construction activities, guard rails should be suitable and sufficient to prevent a person or object falling, so far as is reasonably practicable. To meet these requirements, for rostrums, risers and camera platforms, the top handrail height should be between 950-1000mm. However, for guardrails associated with seating the requirements in BS EN 13200 should be taken into account along with other relevant information provided in Building Regulations, Fire Guidance such as BS 9999, etc.
  • Where aisles / gangways meet front row balconies it is recommended that the height of the rail takes into account the increased potential for a fall (in accordance with Building Regulations Part K for seating left in place for more than 28days). In these areas the view of the audience will not be affected and the protective rail can therefore be higher
  • All aisles and gangways used for access should be kept clear
  • All steps should be clearly marked (i.e. white lined, or be of a clearly distinguishable colour and follow an identifiable pattern to help prevent falls and trips during access and egress)
  • Tiered structures should take account of step height, tread width and exposed edges that may be veiled by black drapes
  • Black drapes and other fabrics should be fire retardant to prevent the spread of flame
  • All edges, walk off’s should be protected or a safe system of work should be established and effectively communicated to the relevant people / groups of people
  • Designers should also consider crew use of structures during the build and once completed and communicate and co-ordinate with other parties; such as the Lighting, Rigging and Sound departments, as they will need to consider a safe method of access to the grid / structures above
  • The use of Audience Services and Security can help effective loading in and out of members of the public.

Division Specific Issues

  • No Division-specific issues to report

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • Stages, seating, marquees etc. are classed as Temporary Demountable Structures (TDS)(see our Guideline to these in Related Topics)
  • There are various British Standards that may be referred to by Designers and venue hosts
  • Building or assembling seating structures fall under the Construction Regulations (see our Guidelines to 'CDM' in Related Topics)
  • Seating structures are often produced in modular kit form for easy assembly. However, if any modifications or additional loadings are made to the structure then a competent designer/structural engineer must be consulted to confirm that the structural integrity of the design has not been/ will not be compromised
  • Some building regulations such as approved documents are available from The National Archives.

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