For thousands of people, their visit to P&J Live for a much-anticipated event has been postponed during the past year. But staff have continued to work hard and make the venue safe and ready for welcoming the public back.
From keeping up with near-daily government briefings on restrictions and guidance to ensuring that plans were ready for when the day comes that P&J Live can reopen, to now operating as a mass vaccination centre for the north-east, it’s been all go for members of the team.
P&J Live’s FM, HSE and Security Manager, David MacPhail, explained all about the work behind the scenes at the venue over the past year and the preparations for when the doors reopen to the public.
First of all, as someone who is overseeing this huge and unprecedented situation from a health and safety perspective, how are you doing? How has your job changed since Covid-19 appeared?
With the arrival of Covid-19, everything changed. Firstly, we lost the vast majority of our employees to the furlough scheme. Employees who in themselves all take a responsibility and play a part in the H&S functionality and culture at P&J Live.
Daily considerations changed from the safety of thousands of gig-goers, conference delegates, exhibitors and visitors from the general public to how can we operate safely at a hugely reduced capacity during the pandemic, while maintaining what is a fantastic venue to a standard that it can be re-mobilised as quickly as possible, as and when the need arises.
Take, for example, the support provided by the venue to the NHS. We have seen the utilisation of buildings such as ours around the UK and we needed to be able to react to such a need or requirement as rapidly as possible for the good of both our industry and our local population.
With the Covid-19 guidance and restrictions changing fairly regularly, how have you managed an evolving situation?
P&J Live is operated by ASM Global and we are very lucky that with over 325 venues worldwide we could pull together a global taskforce to look at how ASM Global could react to the pandemic and the worldwide restrictions.
The taskforce developed an extremely comprehensive set of safety protocols called VenueShield. The programme looks at all aspects of managing Covid-19 risk at our venues, from the initial assessment of the specific and unique risks each building provides to training, disinfection, social distancing parameters, utilisation of new and existing technologies and communication.
The added bonus of VenueShield is that as government guidance and restrictions change, the system has the ability to flex with our operational requirements to allow smooth transition back to normality, without affecting our visitor journey in a negative manner.
I’d imagine the inside of P&J Live looks very different to how people saw it pre-pandemic. How have you changed the venue, firstly to be Covid-19 secure but also for use as a mass vaccination location?
The difference is day and night but things are not looking as dark as they once were!
The venue used to be a thriving hubbub of people from all walks of life connecting, networking and socialising, sadly this aspect of our business has been impacted the most.
As a vaccination centre, we can still enjoy social interaction but it’s now from a distance – when you visit the venue you will see extensive signage reminding all our visitors to remain socially distanced wherever they go. We now have sanitiser points across the entirety of the site; you cannot enter or move around the site without encountering an opportunity to ensure your hands are virus-free.
It has been our privilege to work with our counter parts at NHS Grampian and I think it’s a fantastic example of how the skills of our event teams and those of the NHS can work together to provide an efficient, but most of all safe, means of providing vaccine to the local population on a grand scale.
There are also many changes behind these scenes that aren’t visible to visitors and definitely lots more paperwork and process updates!
How have staff been retrained and redeployed during the closure and now to support the vaccine programme, and eventually reopening?
The team at P&J Live have been fantastic. When we called, they answered and there have been no issues, the team is just delighted to be back in the venue and giving something back.
We undertook a number of training days with all our employees to ensure they had the knowledge and skills required in line with the VenueShield protocols to return to work in a safe manner. The vast majority are now back at the venue, helping deliver the vaccination centre in some form or another.
We have team members from all departments undertaking roles, not usually within their scope, in a concerted effort to ensure the success of the vaccination program or at least where we can.
What will be different about P&J Live when it reopens? Will the visitor experience be different?
This all depends entirely on government guidance and what protocols we are going to be working to by then.
We will adapt and change in line with what comes next; whether we are still wearing face coverings, socially distancing and remain with increased cleaning/hygiene measures. All of this will be a top priority to ensure that our customers feel safe and comfortable in the venue.
As lockdown restrictions ease and people can start attending events at the arena again, what would you say to reassure visitors that P&J Live is a safe place to visit?
I would just say that as a public venue, we are committed to ensuring that our facilities are clean and certified at the highest standards for the safety and health of our co-workers, clients and guests.
Find out more about VenueShield at the P&J Live website.