The goal for the Safety Committee in 2008 was to restructure in order to more effectively handle the safety needs of the organization while working within the differing frameworks of the event and year round operations. After considering the different factors and spending considerable time on refining the concept, with input from various stakeholders, the following structure was developed.
The safety committee would serve as the core committee, and would have several sub-committees and a safety team active during the event itself. The heads of the various subcommittees would participate in the core committee, together with those whose roles include key safety or related functions. Nevada Properties and DPW would each have their own subcommittee, because their operational cycle, needs and scope are quite different.
Additionally there is an off playa advisory subcommittee to explore issues that could effect the event on a broad, cross-departmental basis. Issues that have been considered by that group include how to manage fuel shortages or other logistical challenges that could impact the event from a health or safety standpoint. The work on finishing the development of these committees is expected to continue on into 2009.
During the event, the newly-formed Safety Team acted under the auspices of the Emergency Services Department and performed daily inspections of Black Rock City to find and mitigate potential safety issues. When a safety issue was identified, this group established a dialog with the organizers of the theme camp, art installation or other interactive space to find a way to minimize or eliminate the risk without negatively impacting the spirit of their project. The team found far fewer issues than were anticipated, which speaks highly of those who create projects for the playa.
Also in 2008, department managers who previously did not have direct safety roles were brought together to actively discuss and mitigate potential safety issues for the event. This heightened safety awareness both prevented accidents and problems, and created a positive culture of safety at Burning Man. This was an important evolutionary shift in the Burning Man Organization, because while the event itself can be “wild and crazy”, there is still a need to take good care of our volunteers and staff.