Nights away RA

Nights Away - Risk Assessment

1. Introduction
Without doubt, when organising an activity, you will appreciate the primary consideration is to ensure it can be carried out safely for all involved, including yourselves as Leaders. Even if the words “Risk Assessment” are unfamiliar, you will have considered the level of exposure to danger – “what might happen” – and taken some steps to counter them, or limit the potential consequences. Risk Assessments should consider any risks associated with alternative activities – described as “Contingency Planning” on Form NAN.

2. What is a Risk Assessment?
A written Risk Assessment (RA) for all activities has been a fundamental requirement for some time and, in the context of Nights Away, the only additional requirement is that a copy is submitted to RDSA Nights Away Team, together with Form NAN.

In simple terms, these are the main activities in putting together a Risk Assessment:

Identify all the potential risks associated with carrying out the activity – what might happen and who might be harmed.
Once the risks have been identified, consider what can be done to lessen the likelihood of the risk occurring and/or lessen the impact should the risk materialise (“risk countermeasures”).
Decide after the countermeasures are applied whether or not the residual risk is acceptable*. If it is still not acceptable (too risky) that is a red flag, and either further countermeasures become necessary, or the action/activity associated with the risk needs to be adjusted or withdrawn.

2.1 Don’t rely on templates!
Each event you plan will have a particular set of risks that need to be identified and, unless any risk is already considered to be very low, it needs to be mitigated. It is YOUR risk assessment for YOUR activity and in that sense it is unique.
Once you have created your risk assessment, often, but not always, it can be readily adapted for subsequent similar activities, without the need to completely rewrite it..

2.2 Considerations worth thinking about – a few tips
Ø Do’s

Once you have identified risks and worked on the countermeasures, share it with other leaders who may be part of the event team and your GSL - a second pair of eyes and all that!
As well as writing down the headlines for mitigating risks, also outline a plan of action – for example if someone needs go to hospital, how will that be arranged, how would it effect planned activities, who is responsible for contacting parents (etc.)?
Review risk assessments each time you plan an activity or event as they may need adapting. Time of day, location, leader skills, young person skills and more are considerations – Risk Assessments are living documents.
Periodically review the more static risk assessments e.g., those for premises – perhaps your hall that is used for a sleepover.
Focus on the risks with the higher probability of occurrence and impact, and make sure these are properly addressed.
There may be multiple countermeasures for any risk. For example, if there were a need to reduce the spread of an infection whether it be Covid-19 or Norovirus, several measures are needed e.g., limiting contact, isolation of patient, scrupulous cleaning of common areas, ensuring those showing signs of illness do not attend. etc.
Check accident books/reports and consider whether, with hindsight, they identify a risk that should not be overlooked.

Ø Don’ts

Don’t overcomplicate the RA. Too much granularity of risks results in lots of work; apart from the higher risk areas, identify risks more generically. For example, you would not say there is a risk that someone would break an arm and another risk that they may bump their head – you would say there was a risk of injury. Normally, you may refer to “contagious illnesses” instead of stating specifically, Influenza. Norovirus, Chicken Pox, Measles etc., but in some cases, for example with the Covid-19 Pandemic, the risk of infection has to be addressed explicitly, in line with Scout Association guidance.
Don’t wrestle with it too much; your GSL, other adults in your Group, or your friends may be able to help.
Be realistic about the risks – you don’t need to identify risks with an extremely low probability of occurrence or impact, but equally don’t sweep identified risks under the carpet.
 3. Scout Association Guidance
The Scout Association offers some useful guidance on risk assessments at this Web-link and also plenty of examples including some specifically relating to Nights Away.

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