When to do a risk assessment
Everything you need to know about risk assessments
Risk assessments help to make sure our activities are safe for girls and volunteers.
But risk assessments don’t need to feel like hard work. Just follow the steps below if you're planning activities, trips, residentials and anything else you do.
Risk assessment templates
You can find pre-filled and blank risk assessment templates – as well as guidance on how to use them - on our health, safety and welfare procedure.
When to do a risk assessment
You need to do a risk assessment for all guiding activities, including days out, residentials and unit meetings.
Risk assessing your meeting venues – every year
You should risk assess the venue that you meet in every year.
If you are using the blank template, make sure that you include the building or area you use, such as a hall, and any outside space you use, like a car park.
If any changes to the venue are made, such as the opening of a new space outside, you should update your risk assessment as soon as you can. Don’t wait until a year is up. More information to help you with this can be found in the health, safety and welfare procedure.
If you are using the pre-filled risk assessment, then this covers both the unit meeting venue and any activities scheduled to take place.
Risk assessing unit meetings - every term
You need to do a risk assessment every term for all planned activities, including regular unit meetings. If you use the pre-filled risk assessment form, you don’t need to complete a new one every term. You need to do a new one every year, and review it termly.
If you use the blank risk assessment form, you'll need to complete a new risk assessment every term.
All the activities that you have planned for your unit meetings for a term can be included on one risk assessment. Doing a risk assessment is an ongoing process. Your risk assessment needs to reflect the current needs of your unit and the meeting space or event. You may need to come back and update it throughout the term as needs change.
Is commissioner sign off needed?
Your district commissioner (or division or county commissioner if you don’t have a district commissioner in place) will need to sign off your risk assessment if your unit is meeting face-to-face for the first time since March 2020. You should let your commissioners know you’re planning to start meeting face-to-face and find out how much time they’ll need to sign off on your risk assessment – this could be up to two weeks.
If this is not your first face-to-face unit meeting since March 2020, your commissioner does not need to sign off your risk assessments for regular unit meetings.
Risk assessing events and residentials – as needed
For activities that happen outside of your normal meeting time and place, like day trips, complete a separate risk assessment for the activity. This is also the case for organised residentials, volunteer-led residentials such as sleepovers and residentials abroad.
The pre-filled risk assessment form can’t be used to assess events and residentials. Please use the blank risk assessment forms.
International risk assessment checklist
We've also created a checklist to help you plan your international trips. Download the checklist.
Is commissioner sign off needed?
Commissioner sign off is no longer needed for day trips, one-off events at external venues and for events at the normal meeting place outside of the normal meeting time. However, it is good practice to send a copy to your commissioner without asking for their sign-off, so that they are informed.
Home residential event notification (REN) forms need to be signed off by your commissioner and must be accompanied by your risk assessment. You can find out more information about residentials in the UK here. International permission to plan and international REN forms need to be signed off by the country or region commissioner. Check out the guidance on international trips.
How to do a risk assessment
Risk assessments help us identify how likely and serious the risks are when doing any activity. We can then weigh the risks against the potential benefits of the activity.
Always use one of our Girlguiding risk assessment documents. Using your own forms will make it difficult for us to support you if there’s an incident. If you're using the blank risk assessment, you can fill it in on your device and print it out. Or, if you prefer, you can print it off, and fill in by hand. And our pre-filled risk assessment tool for unit meeting venues and activities is here to make it even easier. All foreseeable risks and control measures have been identified for you. You just need to confirm whether they’re in place or not.
Whether you’re using a pre-filled form or filling in a blank form yourself, it’s important to think all about the necessary steps. When you complete your risk assessment, there are five key principles to think about:
When carrying out an activity it’s important to understand what hazards could be present.
Hazards are anything with the potential to cause harm (eg cars, trip hazards, exposed electrical wires, theft.).
It’s important to:
- Look – what hazards can you see? This will be the main way of identifying risks. Look at the venue you’re using and try to identify hazards as you walk around.
- Ask – have others used the space before? Is there an existing risk assessment for a space or activity that you could incorporate into your own risk assessment? (If you’re using a generic or pre-existing risk assessment make sure to double check that it’s recent and that you agree with the steps taken). Others may be able to identify risks that you haven’t noticed.
- Check – are there any manufacturer’s specifications (eg electrical items, chemicals, such as cleaning products, and equipment) that might be potential hazards?
- Consult – understand risks associated with people, such as health conditions, individual requirements or additional needs. It’s important to identify these and support individuals, rather than creating barriers to activities.
Once you’ve identified potential hazards associated with your activity or task, you need to work out who may be harmed as a result. This may change depending on the type of hazard.
Remember - people external to Girlguiding may be harmed by hazards or could themselves bring hazards and risks to your activity, for example they could be unfamiliar with the equipment or raise safeguarding concerns.
Consider the effect of hazards created by your activities on:
- Girlguiding volunteers and members
- Parents and carers
- Visitors external to Girlguiding
- Members of the public and other users of a venue or space
You need to consider what the harm could be – this could include broken limbs, burns, scalds, death, emotional impact etc.
It’s also important to consider any reputational risks that may arise as a result of incidents or activities. Make sure your actions don’t bring the reputation of Girlguiding into disrepute, in line with our Code of Conduct.
After you’ve identified hazards, you need to evaluate the risk and explore ways of controlling this risk.
It’s your responsibility to make sure risks are appropriately managed and that we protect people from harm that may arise from our activities.
Best practice is to try to remove the risk or hazard completely. If this isn’t possible, the aim is to control the risk as much as possible, so harm becomes unlikely.
- Is there a different option available that has a lower risk or a way of removing it?
- Can you reduce exposure to the hazard, or can you issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce any necessary exposure, for example wearing goggles?
- What provision can be made to address any harm. For example, first aid training or first aid equipment, plans to get help, fire extinguishers?
- Control measures should be as simple as possible so that they are able to be implemented effectively, safely and promptly.
Once you’ve identified hazards and risk management solutions, it’s important that you record these on the Girlguiding risk assessment form.
Risk assessments should be accessible to anyone wishing to see them, those involved in risk management plans, or those that may be harmed as a result.
You need to make sure that they are written in simple language and shouldn't use abbreviations.
Make sure you record when actions are completed, if you need control measures in place before an event. You can make a list to make sure nothing gets missed.
You should talk to volunteers and young members about hazards and risks before carrying out an activity, including them in the solution and further minimising any risk.
Once a risk assessment has been carried out, it’s important to make sure it stays valid and applicable to an activity.
New hazards and changes to risks may occur, and risk management solutions may become ineffective over time. There may also be new ways of working that are now considered best practice, and it’s important to move towards adopting these in your approach.
Sometimes it can be good to ask someone else to review a risk assessment that you carry out regularly, to see if a fresh pair of eyes can spot anything new or that might have been missed before. They may also have some different ideas to manage the risk that you could share.
When reviewing risk assessments, it’s important to inform those involved or affected of any changes so that knowledge is kept up to date and in line with best practice.
Making a balanced decision
Once all the actions listed on a risk assessment are in place, we are looking for a way to eliminate or safely manage the risk of harm to ensure we can safely go ahead with an event or activity.
This makes sure that we are responsibly keeping everyone safe, but also making sure that the activities remain challenging for young members.
For extra guidance on how to plan activities so they’re as safe as possible, check the Being prepared handbook. There’s also information and support for risk assessments in our Activity finder, A Safe Space e-learning and Risky business webinar, which are both on our learning platform. You can also look at our health and safety guidance for property managers webpage.
Checklist for doing a risk assessment for unit meetings, activities, and events
This checklist is for you to use as guidance for every risk assessment you need to do. It won’t cover every risk you might need to plan for. Make sure that you think about any other risk factors connected with the activities at your meeting or event in your risk assessment.
- Do you have volunteers who have the necessary a safe space levels (e.g. level 3) and is there sufficient 1st Response cover for the meeting?
- Have they gone through our recruitment checks?
- Do you have members with disabilities or vulnerable volunteers coming? Check out or guidance on how to make your risk assessment inclusive. Don't forget about young external volunteers too. This could include people doing the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, parent helpers, children of volunteers and new people joining too.
- Are there going to be visitors from outside of Girlguiding or members of the public? Have you shown them our unit safeguarding guidelines? Take a look at our external visitors page for more guidance.
- Are all members’ details up to date on GO? Check their contact information and emergency contact details.
- Do you have all the key documents you need, such as all the event or activity information, consent forms and health forms? Find a copy of these on the Unit Forms webpage.
Here are a few things to consider when planning your activities:
- Are all volunteers aware of their responsibilities and have they read the risk assessment?
- Check that you have the right insurance for your meetings and activities.
- Communicate with parents and carers. Have they been told about the activities planned and what they need to provide? You should also make sure that parents and carers are told in advance about the drop off and pick up plans. This way everyone is aware of each other's responsibilities on the day.
- Think about individual needs in your unit and how the programme can be adapted to make sure activities are safe and inclusive.
- Are there enough adults available to run the activity safely and within the ratio guidelines?
- If you’re planning an adventurous activity, check the adventure for girls pages for a list of all the activities that you can do. See here for the prohibited activities list. Make sure you also read through the adventurous activity policy and procedure.
- What form of transport will members be taking to and from the venue? Think about the different risks linked to that way of travelling.
Here are a few things to think about when making sure everyone stays healthy during the activity:
- Any individual wellbeing needs. Might you need to create adjustment plans or wellbeing plans?
- Think about how you can reduce the risk of germs spreading. What measures will you put in place? Could you have hand sanitiser available for everyone to use?
- What will you do if someone becomes ill during an activity?
Make sure that your meeting place is safe and accessible to everyone:
- Think about access to your venue or meeting place for disabled members and members of the public. Do you have ramps for wheelchair users for example, or is there a space for people to go to if they’re overwhelmed?
- Is there good ventilation, safety signs, running water, clean toilets, and places to wash hands?
- Make sure all electrical equipment and electric sources are safe to use, such as fridges and plug sockets.
- Remember to check the venue’s Fire safety. If you are hiring a venue, have you seen their fire risk assessment? What are the evacuation procedures? How will you make sure everyone knows what to do in a fire emergency?
- Do you need to clean the space or equipment before and after use?
- How will you store equipment like chairs, tables and cleaning products?
- Has your pickup and drop off process been communicated to everyone involved?
- Is there insurance in place for any venue that’s not covered by Girlguiding’s insurance?
- Check the Health and Safety for Hired spaces webpage if you’re hiring a space for your unit meeting.
Here are some of the financial risks to think about when you’re planning your activities:
- What will you do if the budget is overspent or underspent? How will you manage this to make this less likely?
- How will you prevent theft and mismanagement of funds? What will you do if this happens?
Here are some of the reputational risks to think about when you're planning your activities:
If you’re planning an activity that won’t take place in your normal meeting place, here are some things to consider and document in your risk assessment:
- How will you make sure the activity is suitable for everyone’s age and ability?
- How will you take into account the needs of all participants? This could include medical needs, dietary preferences, faith, and cultural differences.
- Will the location, conditions and time of day be suitable?
- Will everyone have appropriate clothing for the weather?
- How will you minimise your impact on the environment?
- How will you manage cancellations and what it might mean for the group?
On the day you should ensure that you have the following things available and close by:
- A first aid kit
- Parental permission for young members
- Contact details for your local commissioner
- A home contact system in place
- A copy of your risk assessment
A leader must inform their local commissioner of any activity due to take place outside the normal meeting place or time and should ensure that parents are aware and have given the appropriate permissions.
If the activity is being provided by an outside organisation, whether on a commercial or a voluntary basis, some basic risk management steps should be taken before any agreement is made.
Check that the activity provider:
- Is a member of the relevant activity organisation, for example Archery GB
- Holds the correct qualifications to be able to run the activity
- Has given evidence of insurance cover
- Has carried out appropriate recruitment and vetting procedures for child protection and has an appropriate child protection or safeguarding policy
- Is aware of the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions that need to be considered
- Has given you a copy of the safety guidance and risk assessment
If the provider isn’t already known to local guiding, you can contact your outdoor activities adviser with any questions.
Leaders only need to risk assess the parts of the activity that they’re responsible for, such as travelling to and from the venue. The instructor is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment specific to the activity, but you should request a copy of this for your records. For further guidance you should contact your outdoor activities adviser or [email protected].
Guidance on making sure your risk assessment is inclusive
Inclusive risk assessments make sure that all our members can go on adventures.
All our activities include an element of risk, which should be identified and managed using a risk assessment.
It may seem that there is a higher risk to some members taking part in activities than to others, which could cause you to worry about including all in adventurous activities. However, taking a person-centred approach to risk assessments will help make sure that all members can be included in the fun and adventure that Girlguiding offer.
Potential or perceived risk should never be used as a reason to treat a person with additional needs differently to the rest of the unit. If you need to amend an activity or prevent it from taking place due to a potential risk, this should be done for the whole unit.
It is vital to include the member, or their parent or carer and activity instructor if appropriate, in the risk assessment process. Your views of a person’s abilities, or what would be challenging to them in the activity, will be different to how they feel about their own abilities. They are the expert.
Using a person-centred approach means that the member is included in all decisions that are made. They will be able to advise you about adjustments that have been made in the past. They may also highlight specific people for support.
Adjustments that are made to an activity should be made in proportion to the risk. For example, if a floor is wet a suitable adjustment would be to mop the floor. It would not be proportional to the risk to rope off the wet area and prevent girls entering the room.
The same applies with inclusive forms of risk assessment. Removing a member from an event or activity will, very often, not be in proportion to the risk.
Girlguiding provides opportunities for girls and young women to develop and grow. When risk assessing an activity for young members, consider the potential benefits of taking part in an activity. Controlled risks within adventurous activities, such as wearing a helmet and using a qualified instructor when climbing or abseiling, can increase the enjoyment.
Controlling the risks within an activity is a balance between happy and safe:
- With all perceived risks removed, the young member will be safe but will not necessarily enjoy themselves.
- Not managing any of the identified risks will mean that the young member is not safe, and will most likely not enjoy the activity.
When you have identified and managed risks the young member will be able to be independent and enjoy the activity in a controlled environment allowing them to develop and grow.
Who needs to do what
Here's some guidance on what your responsibilities are if you're a unit leader or commissioner.
As unit leader, you need to make sure risk assessments are carried out for all activities. Risk assessments are a key part of keeping everyone safe, and can help you to feel confident about your planning.
You don’t have to complete the risk assessment on your own. We’d recommend working on it together with your unit leadership team. Working together means that everyone can take responsibility, share ideas and act when it’s needed. You could also reach out to other units in your area who run the same activities and chat together about your thoughts on hazards and the things they have in place to make the risk smaller.
Some risks can’t be predicted, and you might not be able to control them fully. This isn’t something to worry about, but if anything unexpected does happen, you could use this to review and develop your next risk assessment.
You must always carry your risk assessment with you during guiding activities. You can have it printed on paper or saved digitally on a phone or tablet, so the whole team can refer to it as needed. You might also be asked by your local commissioner or a parent or carer to share it with them.
If you need help with completing your risk assessment, speak to your local commissioner who can help you with some practical support and direct you to our training opportunities, like the Risky Business webinar, which is on our learning platform.
If someone has an accident or incident at a Girlguiding activity or event, you’ll need to complete the notification form to report what happened. Please see the What to do in an emergency page for extra guidance.
As commissioner, you oversee managing risk and health and safety, including the approval of Residential Event Notification (REN) forms and signing off on risk assessments for units meeting face-to-face for the first time since March 2020.
We want our activities to be safe, but it’s important that any safety measure is appropriate and strikes a balance between activities being fun and being challenging. It’s not possible to achieve absolute safety but we expect those leading activities to eliminate or reduce the risks as far as they can.
If you have any concerns over the safety of an activity listed in a risk assessment, share your concerns with the unit leader and chat with them to work out what can be done to make this activity safer so it can go ahead. This is part of the ongoing process of managing risk. If you can’t agree, then ask another commissioner or an outdoor adviser for a second opinion. You can also contact volunteer support ([email protected]) for more help.
It's also important to support volunteers that are new to their role and learning how to do risk assessments, taking part in a new activity or visiting a new venue. You can help by sharing good practice and directing them towards additional resources and training opportunities like the Risky Business webinar on our learning platform.
You might want to include risk assessments as a regular part of your district or division meeting agenda and make sure that volunteers are up to date with our policies and procedures. The Health, safety and welfare policy would be a good place to start.