‘Dynamic risk assessments’ are processes carried out by the leader during the activity, to reduce risk towards the group. By analysing and assessing the environment, the leader can identify hazards and make on the spot decisions in regards to their own/group safety. The aim of this page is to make you aware of what you may need to look out for and what questions you need to ask yourself.
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As a leader, you have the responsibility to give your group a quality experience, yet you equally have the responsibility to make sure they are safe. Even though you might be adhering to site and generic risk assessments , you may encounter hazards or risks, which makes you re-evaluate the activity. This may result in you altering the activity, moving to another area, or stopping it completely.
Assessing Hazards and Risks
If you are presented with hazards or risks whilst involved in an activity, certain questions should enter you mind, which are:
Is it safe to continue without adjustment?
Imagine your group are roasting marshmallows over the fire, and there are strong winds. You might decide to put out the fire and choose a different activity – you could try:
Can the environment or activity be made safe?
You are playing ‘ Last Person Standing ’ and the ground in a certain area is very bumpy (hilly). By getting the group to alter the rules, by saying if you’re caught in that hilly area running, then you are out, this is one way of reducing risk and making the activity safer. Alternatively, you could try a ‘ Trust Walk ’ or using the hilly terrain as part of an activity, such as ‘ Den Building ’.
Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
You are playing Hide and Seek , and one of the members of the group decide to climb a tree to hide. The benefits of this act far out weigh the actual risks in that they are very able and can climb anything. Following an assessment of the ground conditions around the tree e.g. hazardous stumps/rocks, you may decide that the children are safe to hide in the tree as you recognise that they are competent climbers. Alternatively, if the tree was overhanging a 20 metre drop the risk to the child would outweigh any benefit. In this case, the activity should not be allowed to happen.
Can another suitable activity be actioned?
If an activity is clearly not safe, do not try to continue. For example, if you have been waiting to visit the woods with your group to continue with ‘ The Fantastic Mr Fox ’ story and you’re playing ‘ Sleeping Farmers ’, you maybe tempted to carry on with the activity even though you are experiencing extreme weather. This is when the activity must stop, and having ‘ contingency activities ’ in place will keep the group engaged but more importantly they will be safe.
Beware that blinkered vision can lead to dangerous operating procedures
Can you relocate to a suitable site?
If you need to leave a site due to the risk to the group, having multiple places you can visit will be helpful. Before you plan an activity, make a list of sites which could be used as an alternative.
If you have considered your dynamic risk assessment and decided to return home, having a list of indoor activities can help.
Go ahead with caution
If you feel happy that the group are safe enough, you may choose to continue, but remember things can change very quickly so be alert.
Other considerations that can effect your assessment
- Behaviour management – Dynamics of the group can make or break it. Stay on top of behaviour of the children and make sure the rules are simple.
- Emergency situations – In case of an emergency, make sure you adhere to your emergency operating procedures .
- Extreme weather conditions – Do not ignore weather reports, even if the weather conditions appear clear.
- Ability level – Be conscious of the ability level of each child and tailor you activities to meet the needs of all abilities.