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Risk Assessment

As well as assessing the premises for the risks that they may pose for children, all leaders of children’s and young people’s groups should assess the risks involved in the programme that they are planning.

What is a risk assessment?  A risk assessment means looking at what could go wrong and deciding on ways to prevent or minimise that risk.

We all carry out informal risk assessments every day:

  • Is it going to rain? I’ll take my coat and an umbrella just in case.

  • Is it safe to cross the road? Find a safe place to cross, look right and left...

There are a number of ways to carry out risk assessments. The following is a basic, straightforward method recommended by the Health and Safety Executive. This method is dependent on identifying potential ‘hazards’ and then assessing the ‘risk’ that those hazards could pose.

  • A hazard is anything that could cause harm

  • The risk is the likelihood (whether high or low) that someone will be harmed by the hazard
Step 1: Identify the hazards

Walk around the venue, think through your programme and think about the individual children and young people you are working with (taking into account age, special needs, whether physical, emotional or behavioural etc).

  • What/who could reasonably be expected to cause harm?

  • Look back at accident records/incidents

  • What has been a hazard in the past?

Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how

For each hazard think through who might be harmed:

  • groups of people (eg children, young people, youth leaders, parents)

  • individuals - (eg a child with special needs)

  • How might they be harmed? What type of injury?

Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

What can you do about the hazards?

  • Can I get rid of the hazards altogether?

  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?

Step 4: Record your findings and implement them

Writing down your risk assessment and sharing them with your colleagues helps to ensure everyone understands the risks and subsequent controls.

Risk Assessments can then be reviewed and reused at a later date.

Step 5: Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

When working with children and young people, the level of risk will vary depending upon the particular individuals you are working with, and the gifts and abilities of your workers. Thus risk assessments should be reviewed when necessary.

General risk assessments and specific risk assessments

A general risk assessment should be done at the beginning of each term or set of sessions, considering the programme and the venue. Specific risk assessments should be done for activities which are out of the ordinary, for example a trip out, or an activity with particular risk factors (cooking, woodwork etc.).

Example grids for carrying out a risk assessment are shown below:

Activity-Youth Club
Identify the Hazards Who might be harmed and how? Evaluate the risk and decide on precautions Review your assessment and update if necessary
Inadequately supervised children/young people

Accidents, bullying, etc.
Young people


Ratio of staff to young people (see Safe to Grow)

All rooms that are being used to be adequately staffed

Any young people with special needs - do they need particular help for certain parts of the programme?
If a volunteer can't come at the last minute, how does that affect your evening's programme?
Accidents playing games Young people

First aid kit and first aider on premises

Think through games - are they suitable for the age profile of young people?

Access to phone
Re-assess risk

Is field clear of hazards?
Safety of premises Young people


Walk around the premises and consider what could reasonably be expected to cause harm Another group is sharing the premises on a particular night
Use of kitchen Young people

Young people to stay out of kitchen unless adequately supervised  
Trips out   Separate risk assessment to be done  

Your written procedures should include a clear indication about:
  • When a risk assessment should be carried out

    • General risk assessments

      • should these be ‘termly’ or ‘quarterly’? (set a frequency that is appropriate for the way in which the group runs)

    • Special risk assessments

      • whenever an activity may involve greater risk

      • always if an activity takes place away from the normal venue

  • Who is responsible for carrying out the risk assessment

    • identify clearly for each group who will be responsible for conducting the risk assessment

  • What record should be kept of the risk assessment?

    • How should these be stored?

Within the training and induction programme organised by the church for its children’s and youth workers, a module on risk assessment should be introduced for those who will have this responsibility. A common method of risk assessment should be agreed to be used by all church organisations.
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