Risk Assessments

Risk Assessments

As an event organiser, you will probably come across risk assessments quite frequently, perhaps all too frequently. But how much do you need to know about them? And do you need to know how to produce one yourself? Often, risk assessments are treated as if they were a needless and time-wasting piece of bureaucracy, which are nevertheless beloved of local authorities and insurance companies, and others whose daily business seems, to the uninitiated, to be almost entirely made up of dealing with documents of dubious value. However, an objective look at any well-constructed risk assessment will tend to deflate this idea; risk assessments are, for the most part, very practical documents. They delineate the risks associated with a particular location or activity, and analyse the severity of these risks, according to common-sense criteria. If you are reading an assessment prepared by someone else, it is usually only necessary to make yourself acquainted with the various hazards (e.g. electrical, fire hazards, and so on) which have been identified, the control measures which have been put in place, and your responsibilities within this scheme. But if you are called on, by circumstances, to put together your own risk assessment, then you will have to know something about the principles underlying their construction. Constructing a Risk Assessment You will need to write your own assessment, or have one written for you, if there are special risks associated with your own event (as opposed to other events which have taken place at the venue) or if your event is being held at a location which is not generally used as a venue. Basically, each entry in a risk assessment (and there are many pro-forma documents that can be used, available on the web) identifies and analyses, one particular risk. The elements of an entry are: > The hazard (which the risk relates to). For instance, a common hazard in any public place is the risk of people slipping on areas of floor which are being cleaned. > The severity of the harm which may result from this hazard. In our example, the harm is considered 'major', since the 'worst foreseeable consequence' of someone slipping, is (perhaps) a broken leg as a result of falling awkwardly. The possibility of, for instance, someone suffering a heart attack through having such a fall is discounted to some extent, since the main risk factor there would be the person's heart condition, which could result in harm, even if they did not slip and fall. > The likelihood that the 'worst foreseeable consequence' will occur. This very much depends on... > The control measures put in place. Generally, as in the 'slipping on wet floor' case, it is not possible to do anything much about the existence of the risk, or indeed, its severity, but it is usually possible to instigate safety measures which will reduce the likelihood of harm occurring. In our example, these will generally consist of signs and barriers. The upshot of the above analysis, should be an assessment of the level of the risk, is it acceptable, low, medium, or high? These are the usual categories. If it is anything other than acceptable, then more safety measures should be identified and put in place, in order to reduce the level to this. Conclusions Risk assessments are a useful management tool, it is advantageous to be able to understand them, and when necessary, construct one. Accidents can be very expensive, financially; they can also have severe costs in human terms, so obviously, it is as well to guard against them. It is difficult to comprehend just how one would guard against such risks, without a document setting out what they are, how severe they could, at worst, be and what procedures are necessary to prevent them happening, and/or lessen their impact. Essentially, this is what a risk assessment is.

Author: Gary Burgess

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