Keeping young people safe is our primary aim in Scouting. Having fun, doing adventurous and new things comes a close second. This means we must assess the safety of every activity we do with or young people. We do this through risk assessments.
Update to Activity Rules from September 2020:
The main change proposed in this area is that all risk assessments are documented, but in a way that is not laborious. It should become part of your routine programme planning or just require small tweaks to be made to existing risk assessments for those activities done on a regular basis at section meetings.
Risk Assessment Using Vowels - AEIOU
It's a simple way to teach Young Leaders and anyone else not familiar with carrying out a risk assessment.
Go through the vowels, noting down the following:
A - Activity
What activity is being carried out?
A game, craft activity, camp, a walk, lighting camp fires, chopping wood, cooking etc.
E - Environment
What environment will the activity take part in?
Inside the scout hut, outside in a park, a field (potentially with rabbit holes, tree roots...), in the dark, wet and muddy... etc.
I - Individuals
Who is taking part?
As well as the obvious size and age differences between Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers, and Leaders, there is also maturity, strength, and understanding, as well as an ability to follow (or not follow) instructions. There may be an individual who has particular needs that need to be catered for.
O - 'Oh my goodness, what could go wrong'?
This depends on the activity, the environment and who is involved. Consider all possibilities.
This could be injuries to individuals, and damage to equipment.
U - What are you going to do about it?
This section is the most important. Once all the other parts have been noted, now decide what can be done about particular risks/things that could go wrong.
- This might include supervision, the ratio of leaders to young people.
- It may include ensuring the young people have suitable footwear and clothing for an outdoor activity.
- When an activity is taking part in the dark, what lighting will be available?
- If the idea is to carry out an activity in the dark, can you check for trip hazards before it starts?
- Are there any areas that will be out of bounds, and how will you ensure they are out of bounds?
- If a craft activity includes using glue, paint, glitter etc. what can be done to make sure there are no disasters, either for clothing, flooring, or eyes?
- How can sharp tools and craft knives/scissors be used safely when either doing crafts, cooking or chopping wood?
- What will be put in place when using fires?
It's important that you carry out a risk assessment and document it - it isn't important what it looks like.
Guidance from The Scout Association on the steps involved in a risk assessment
A handy checklist for ensuring the safe running of activities. You can also order a pocket version from Scouts Shops
Risk Assessment Tools
Risk Assessment Assistant
by Milton Keynes Scouts
Uses a simple form to produce an easy to read Risk Assessment document! Also contains access to shared templates.
Risk Assessment & Activity Planning Template
Word document, especially suitable for outdoor activities. It includes reminders of ratios, and a matrix to ensure you have planned activities safely.
Simple Risk Assessment Form
Great for doing risk assessments at short notice or ‘on the fly’. Ideal to print out and take with you, to fill in when activities change!
Online Scout Manager
OSM includes a risk assessment tool in their programme and events package. Simply add a general risk assessment for the term, then add extra items in individual meetings.