Risk Assessment in nothing more than a careful examination of an activity in order to identify what could cause harm to all who are involved (i.e. Pupils, volunteers, employees, etc.), estimating the likelihood of the harm occurring and checking to ensure whether or not sufficient precautions are being taken to prevent it.
Don’t be put off by the terminology of risk assessment, for example, words such as hazard, risk, and control measure.
- A Hazard is something with the potential to harm you. For example, mountain walking in remote areas.
- A Risk is the chances or likelihood of the harm occurring. For example, inexperienced participants, poor weather, etc.
- Control Measures are what you do to prevent someone being harmed. For example, making sure the participants have correct equipment, under the supervision of an experienced leader etc.
Young Persons Involvement in Risk Assessments
There are many benefits to the involvement of young people in the production of risk assessments. Young people who are involved in, planning visits, organisation and evaluation and who are well prepared will make more informed decisions and be less at risk:
- An important educational process.
- Part of safety education.
- Support supervision decisions. An essential part of outdoor education.
- Recognition and use of an active and progressive process.
Types of Risk Assessment
Risk Assessments can be grouped into two main types:
- One-off/special or specific risk assessment.
- Dynamic/ongoing risk assessment.
Risk Assessment Cards
Risk assessment cards have been developed, by the CYPS Health and Safety team, to assist schools when they are doing risk assessments on activities. They include ideas for risk assessments for hazardous activities. Hinning House and Low Bank Ground and CYPS Youth Service Outdoor Education Team have up to date risk assessments for all of the activities they provide.
Should staff require training or advice in completing RAs, then they should consult with the Headteacher/Manager/School Educational Trips and Visits Co-ordinator. The CYPS EVA can also be contacted for advice.
Forms are available in two formats:
- Form RA1 for residential’s and complex activities. Form RA1 should be used when undertaking a pre-visit of a proposed venue or provider outside of the CYPS provision. If a pre-visit cannot be undertaken the form should be sent to the provider for completion.
- Form RA2 for one-off day/part day visits or activities. Guidance below outlines what needs to be considered when completing Form RA2.
Site Specific Risk Assessment
These are risk assessments to cover a specific activity or special event, or where no previous risk assessment is available. For example, an educational visit to the lakes, etc. One-off/specific risk assessment must inform school-based policies and procedures, with consideration of CYPS policies. These must be carried out by the schools for each visit and if used on a visit to be repeated, they must be reviewed and amended to reflect the individual needs of the group involved.
Headteachers and Managers are free to develop their own risk assessments for one-off or special activities. When carrying out a risk assessment, it is important to bear in mind the Health and Safety Executive’s. ‘5 Steps to Risk Assessment (external link).
Record the following in your assessment:
- Look for the hazards.
- Decide who might be harmed.
- Evaluate the risks and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more must be done.
- Record your findings, and
- Review the assessment and revise it if necessary.
The aim must be to remove as much uncertainty about the likelihood and possible consequences of the hazards in question. In general, the resulting ‘risks’ can be grouped under the following headings:
- Environmental issues, e.g. weather, hazards specific to a site.
- Equipment, e.g. clothing, ropes, buoyancy aids, helmets.
- Travel, e.g. driving periods, transport.
- Method of working, e.g. specific techniques employed.
- Competence/discipline: people are authorised on basis of checks.
- Management/supervision, e.g. risk assessment, degree of monitoring and overall control.
Ongoing Risk Assessment
These are risk assessments which consist of judgements and decisions made as situations arise. For example, during an emergency or on an educational visit where circumstances change and a decision is taken to follow an alternative plan, etc. Dynamic risk assessments must be informed by existing establishment risk assessments and are not a substitute for the need to carry out a generic or one off risk assessment before the event.
Implementing the Chosen Precautions
A risk assessment is of no use unless it is taken up by those directly involved in performing or managing the activity. A culture of co-operation and consultation is essential. Where risk of injury is possible, there must be a written risk assessment to show how precaution will be monitored, maintained and where necessary, updated and phased in. The criteria for judging whether control measures is likely to be successful are:
- Have significant risks been addressed.
- Are decisions on precautions consistently applied.
- Is action proposed proportionate to the risk established.
- Has the assessment been sufficiently open so that people can follow the reasoning and abide by it.
- Has accountability been established and accepted? In the worst case, an incident may still occur despite the control measures. There is a tendency for people to want to ‘pin the blame’. Those potentially in the ‘firing line’ must have the reassurance in advance that if they are playing their agreed part in controlling the risk, they will be supported: completing the risk assessment is important in this regard.
- Where freedom of action is appropriate, e.g. over weather conditions, do local operators/employees understand the limits of their discretion.
- Are people happily following the control measures.
- Are there any indications that more needs to be done.
- Has anything arisen from the procedure that could be improved on for dealing with risk control problems in the future, and
- Does the original assessment need to be updated in the light of experience.
Risk Assessment for Category ‘A’ Trips:
There are many different types of day trips, and many staff will already be experienced in the management of them and potential risks. Once again it is essential to be aware that the potential of a fatal accident exists and may occur due to unique events or as a result of bad management. The purpose of undertaking a Risk Assessment is to highlight known dangers and provide a means of minimising risk.
Also, major and minor injuries and instances of ill health have occurred which have ruined trips for all participants.
Example: Taking Pupils to a Swimming Pool
- Supervision is the key.
- For swimming, it is recommended that supervision is a minimum ratio of 1 adult to 15 pupils for years 4 to 6; and 1 adult per 20 pupils for year 7 onwards.
- An important factor to consider with ratios is the ability of the pupil. Greater consideration for pupils with Special Educational Need’s must be given.
- The risk assessment must include hazards and control measures during transport and preparation for the activity, as well as the activity (swimming) itself.
Transporting the Pupils
There is no select list of approved companies, you would need to satisfy yourself and record that the company is competent; the driver is qualified, that the bus has an MOT certificate; and that it meets the necessary current seating requirements. (See Transport).
Preparations at the Swimming Pool
Changing rooms; hazards include: slippy floors, children misbehaving and ‘stranger danger’ and the control measure is supervision.
The Activity: Swimming
The main hazard of the activity is drowning. The control measure in a Wigan pool is ‘supervised by swimming pool staff’.
Training is vital so that risks are adequately controlled by ensuring that individuals are prepared and competent. The three minimum areas for training are given below.
- Specific training for School Educational Visits Co-ordinators.
- Training for employees, volunteers and pupils in the basic risk assessment: Despite the care in thinking things through there will always be something left to the discretion of the person actually performing the task. A basic grounding in the process of assessing risks can be a lifesaver in the field.
- Activity specific training preparation for the group: Instant recognition of breaches of good practice: If everyone has a clear picture of what constitutes a major threat to maintaining precautions, oversights and indiscretions will be spotted and corrected before they can do damage.
The importance of an appropriate review cannot be over-emphasised. Its main purpose is to identify strengths and weaknesses of arrangements to improve the efficiency of future visits.
Pressures on return to school will tend to override this vital aspect and time must therefore be planned in to make it happen.
The scale of the review needs to be proportionate to the visit and any incidents, which may have occurred. It might involve the Group Leader alone but profitable feedback might come from staff or pupils.
Additionally, there may be circumstances where the Headteacher, Manager, Governors or parents need to be included.
Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Schools will already be familiar with the nature of pupils’ special educational needs. Any needs a pupil may have, must be taken into account at the planning stage and when carrying out the risk assessment. Off-site visits may pose additional difficulties to a pupil with SEN and the behaviour of some pupils may prove challenging. Consider the following:
- Can this activity be adapted to enable the pupil to participate at a suitable level?
- Is the pupil capable of taking part in and benefiting from the activity?
- Will additional/different resources be necessary?
- Is the pupil able to follow and understand instructions?
- Will additional supervision be necessary?
In terms of the Equal Opportunities Policy (and Disability Discrimination Act (external link)), pupils should not be excluded from participation in an off-site activity on the basis of their SEN alone. The school is committed to including all pupils, if at all possible.