Risk-Benefit management is a fundamental part of life and is a skill needed for young people’s safety and well-being. Staff have a duty of care towards young people. However, this certainly does not mean ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’. Therefore we have responsibility not only to keep young people safe, but also to enable them to learn to manage risks for themselves.
Risk management is all about identifying and managing any significant chance of harm. Significance is determined by two factors:
1. the likelihood of an accident or incident happening.
2. the severity of injury or harm if it does occur.
A small risk of minor injury is not considered significant. Therefore many LOtC activities, such as those in Category 1, should not need any more risk assessment over and above applying the normal duty of care and under-pinned by your school/organisational policy. However, if there is a strong likelihood of minor injury or a small, but not negligible, possibility of serious harm, then this would be considered significant.
Where there is any significant chance of harm then a process of risk assessment and management can help all those involved. The process should be:
It will focus on managing risk by:
- being integral to overall planning
- ensuring that leaders have the necessary competence and experience
- concentrating on significant hazards to assess risk
- ensuring that control measures are suitable and responsibilities are defined
- making sure that those that need to know, do know.
It will be realistic and effective when it:
- is flexible, by not insisting on a rigid format
- recognises the experience and professionalism of leaders
- provides sufficient detail to provide confidence
- records evidence of the process followed
- allows all leaders and learners to be treated according to their needs
- enables children and young people with disabilities to participate safely
- enables staff working with children and young people with challenging behaviours to feel confident participating in outside activities
Risk assessments do not need to be complex but should address any significant risks. They do not generally require technical information or professional health and safety expertise. However, specialised information for some Category 2 and all Category 3 activities may be necessary and headteachers, or their equivalent in your organisation, should ensure that the person assessing the risks is competent to do so.
Schools need not assess the on-site risks at locations that already are required to carry out their own risk assessments – libraries, museums, art galleries etc. However, they should discuss with the provider any requirements, how to prepare the young people and any specific issues that need to be addressed. This should also apply to many venues such as outdoor centres and farms which are organised for educational visits. However, schools are advised to discuss any potential issues specific to the group (e.g. group size, disabilities, special medical or educational needs) with the venue before attending. To ensure for peace of mind you may want to consider using a venue which holds the LOtC Quality Badge. Read more about the benefits of the LOtC Quality Badge.
The risk assessment should be based on the following considerations:
- What are the hazards?
- Who might be affected by them?
- What safety measures need to be in place to reduce risks to an acceptable level?
- Can the group leader put the safety measures in place?
- What steps will be taken in an emergency?
The 3 categories of Risk Assessment
- Generic — statements of good practice covering the activity, when and where it takes place; applicable to Category 2 activities. They are useful to cover activities which are likely to be repeated and that do not need doing again unless the activity, the environment and/or the nature of the learners change significantly. Parental consent is not normally required for activities which take place during the school day. Your prospectus, together with newsletters and your website should create an expectation that young people will regularly learn outside the classroom.
- Specific — completed by the activity/group leader and unique to each occasion. These apply to Category 2 and 3 activities. They should take into account the site, learners’ needs and activity-specific needs (environment, accommodation, leaders, transport etc).
- Ongoing — involves professional judgements during an activity in response to changing situations. This applies to all three categories and is critical to success and safety of any activity.