What is a risk assessment?
Quite simply, a risk assessment is an assessment of the risk involved in a particular event or activity. This assessment of risk will allow you to make a decision about what steps, if any, are necessary to reduce that risk.
Why do I need a risk assessment?
- as an event organiser, you have a responsibility to the public to ensure that your event is run in as safe and appropriate a manner as possible;
- a risk assessment ensures that you have thought through the safety implications of the activity or event and taken all possible steps to reduce risks, where appropriate;
- a risk assessment does not guarantee that nothing will go wrong, but acting on its findings will significantly reduce the chance of problems occurring
- if anything does goes wrong, a risk assessment will show that you have done your best to predict and remove any risks. For anyone faced with a claim or prosecution relating to health and safety, the difference between having and not having a written risk assessment may be significant
As an event organiser you almost certainly conduct risk assessments already, whether you know it or not.
Take the following hypothetical case study:
Louise holds a coffee and cake morning for young mothers at her home. Seven mothers attend, with their children. Two other mothers expressed an interest in attending recently but Louise turned them down as she thought this would be too many children in a small space. Another parent once asked if they could bring their family dog. Louise said no as she thought the animal might be too boisterous and hurt a child. As a matter of course, Louise keeps children out of the kitchen when she is preparing drinks and ensures that all cups are tidied away as soon as they are finished with. Nothing special there, but what Louise has done, without knowing it, is conducted a mental risk assessment of her event and taken the appropriate measures to reduce the risks.
You are thinking this is ridiculous, surely there is really no need to conduct a risk assessment for such a simple event? Think again.
This time bearing in mind the following points:
- if any child were injured at Louise’s house, she could well be found liable if it was considered that she had acted negligently;
- a risk assessment takes very little time to produce, once you know what you are doing a risk assessment can save lives; a risk assessment shows that you have thought through the possibilities of danger at your event and have taken action accordingly;
- a risk assessment encourages you to think about all the risks associated with an event. It can result in you thinking about areas of risk that you might not have otherwise considered, and doing something about them.
Louise sits down and writes a full risk assessment for her event. This makes her think fully about the event and its safety implications. She uses this simple form to help her:
5 steps to writing a risk assessment
A simple risk assessment has 5 parts.
Think about what could go wrong and write them down. Don’t worry about how it sounds. Although the risk assessment examples in this are formally written, an informal risk assessment is quite acceptable.
For example: The marquees might catch fire!
The important thing is that you do one.
- a hazard is anything which has the potential to cause harm to people;
- a risk is the likelihood of the harm from a hazard being realised and the extent of it
If it happens how bad would it be?
- Not that bad? (Low)
- Pretty bad? (Medium) or
- Very bad? (High)
Give a rough indication of severity. You can always combine two ratings e.g. low/medium
If the hazard severity is variable i.e. could range from low to high, you can represent it as medium
For ‘marquees might catch’ fire, the hazard severity would be high
Likelihood of occurrence
How likely is it to happen?
What this actually means here is ‘How likely is it to happen if you don’t take any actions to reduce the risk beyond the controls which are already in place.’
Use the same scale of measurement as you used for ‘Hazard severity’ above
For the above example, the likelihood of occurrence would be: Low
Residual risk rating
Residual risk rating
Using the same scale of measurement again, the residual risk rating is a representation of the average of the hazard severity rating and the likelihood of occurrence rating.
An easy way to think about it is using the following scores:
Low = 1; Medium = 2; High = 3
A combined rating is the lower score plus one half e.g. Low/Medium = 1.5; Medium = 2.5
Control measures required
Control measures required
What action can you take to remove the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level? Most of the time there will be a simple and common sense solution to the problem. What you need to do is identify it and ensure that it is carried out and is carried out every time that risk is present.
What we actually mean here is what realistic action can you take to reduce the risk. For any risk there may be a variety of solutions that may be put in place to contain it. You should select the most appropriate solution bearing in mind the residual risk rating and the event specifics, including manpower and financial considerations.
For example, take the following risk:
A trailing power cable from a P.A. unit to a performance area (any type) presents a trip hazard to the public. For a small event with a low attendance, the hazard might carry a residual rating of low.
Solutions such as secure high visibility taping or matting might be sufficient for such events.
For a large event with a significant attendance and where crowd disturbance has been identified as a possibility, the hazard might carry a residual risk rating of high. An appropriate solution would be to provide a secure and certified structure to carry the cable overhead. In-house taping or matting would not be an appropriate solution in such cases.
Your aim should be to identify an appropriate solution that is achievable within your budget and manpower constraints. High cost solutions may reduce risks significantly but are not an option for many event organisers. Your objective is to remove the risk entirely or to reduce it to an acceptable level.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is it within my power / budget / capabilities to do that will reduce the risk?
- Will taking this action eliminate the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level?
If the answer to the second question is ‘no’ and you cannot identify an appropriate solution that lies within your power / budget / capabilities then you should look at removing the risk area entirely from your event, or changing it in such a way that you will be able to provide a solution that eliminates or sufficiently reduces the risk.
Note: It is rarely possible to completely remove a risk. Fencing off a generator with warning signs on the fence is generally an acceptable way of minimising the risk to the public caused by an unfenced and unsigned appliance. However, this is not going to stop somebody who is determined to climb over that fence! What you have done is minimised the risk to the best of your capabilities and this is what risk assessments are all about.
If you are not sure how to do a risk assessment or would like help with one, or if you would like advice on insurance for an event please call us on 029 2031 6211 or email us.BACK