There is plenty of ways to risk assess activities. We do this on a regular basis by making sure that the games we play aren’t dangerous and by making sure activities are suitably supervised. This is normally done by having game rules.
It is important to remember that there will always be an element of risk involved in activities. You will never be able to completely remove all risk. Some level of risk is good, but you need to make sure that it is done so in a controlled way.
How we record an activity risk assessment is quite open. It needs to be simple enough that it can easily be explained to other leaders, young leaders, helpers and the young people involved. It needs to be comprehensive enough that it includes all reasonable considerations to mitigate risks. When assessing activities, it does not need to be war and peace. We consider most risks and add ‘rules’ to games. For example, when playing hockey in the hall, we typically add a rule of ‘no hockey sticks above waist height’.
One way of doing this, and common practice within the outdoor education world, is to have an activity card. This might include;
- Description of the activity,
- Safety rules,
- Equipment needed,
- Organisation and planning.
You may also want to include images of the activity to help convey how the activity works.
Whilst we can use other media for recording risk (video, audio recording, etc) it is preferred by the scout association that this is written down. It might be better to do both a written and audio/visual RA to make sure your have covered everything.
Depending on the activity, your risk assessment needs to be an appropriate way of recording all risks and mitigations. For a more challenging activity like learning to use an axe with scouts, the risk assessment will be quite comprehensive. If you are working with beavers and doing a craft activity, the risk assessment will be quite straight forward.
When risk assessing an activity, there are plenty of considerations to think about.
- What is the best way to record our risk assessment?
- How will you bring equipment to the location and ensure that it is safe when not in use? For example, if you are using bowsaws, you may want to have a lockable box for these.
- Does the activity require more than the normal ratio for your section?
- Is the equipment safe to use? Has it been maintained?
- Is the activity appropriate for the age group and skill of the young people? For example, you would not do complicated axe work with scouts who have never used an axe or a saw.
- What is an appropriate ratio for the activity? The Scouts ratios for each section is a recommendation and a minimal number. Your risk assessment should define this in more detail - do you need more?
It is also important to remember where you are doing this activity. You might find that you are perhaps using an area that you normally consider out of bounds (within your location risk assessment). If that is the case, you should note it appropriately within your activity risk assessment with the normal mitigations in place. For example, this could be that young people are allowed in to the wooded area when leaders are supervising.