Hazards and risks assessed

Managing risk involves risk assessments.

Identifying the hazards, assessing the risk to the people involved and identifying ways to control the risk as far as is reasonably practicable.

As you manage risk

  • Be thorough in your assessments,
  • Ask people who might be affected by the risks, 
  • Deal with the obvious and significant risks as a priority
  • Check the controls are reasonable and the remaining risk is low
  • Involve staff and volunteers in the process.

In the UK if you have fewer than five employees you are not legally required to record the findings of your assessments.

There are many reasons why you might choose to write it down

  • The nature of sailing as an activity and the risks that go with it mean it is not a simple process
  • It is useful evidence that you have complied with your duty of care to staff, volunteers, members and participants
  • Writing it down increases the chance of something being done about it.

It may be useful to consider different levels of risk assessment.

Pre activity hazard identification and risk assessment

Written pre session / event

  • May cover an entire season, similar sessions or series of events / activities
  • Controls and mitigations implemented in a number of ways – procedures, equipment provided, or other actions that can be taken in advance
  • Some of the hazards identified may require an ‘on the day’ assessment.

When thinking about hazards, it may be useful to consider

  • The activity itself – hazards related to sailing for example
  • The event or session – hazards related to the way the event or session is organised (for example: launching and recovery of a number of participants)
  • The venue – other on the water activity, local hazards and by-laws to be considered, where and how safety boats can be launched and recovered, where participants launch and recover from, for example
  • The equipment to get people and boats on and off the water, and the vessels used on the water particularly any provided by your organisation
  • Participants and their individual needs.

Questions to ask - Pre activity hazard identification and risk assessment

Do you have a written risk assessment that covers on the water activities?


If you have more than one risk assessment do you have a summary list so everyone can easily find them?


Does your risk assessment consider the hazards associated with the activity, the nature of the session, the venue, and the equipment being used to get people and boats on and off the water?


Have staff and / or volunteers been involved in the process?


When was your written risk assessment last reviewed and updated?


Are there any controls identified in the risk assessment that haven't or can't be implemented?




Find out more about our guide to risk assessment.

Daily Risk Assessment

  • May be written, or make use of a simple matrix
  • Contributes to a sail / no sail decision
  • May lead to reducing fleet size / increasing safety cover / reducing sail area or other controls to be implemented on the day
  • Captures all those elements that are unknown in advance

It can be useful to record the assessment so you can account for key decisions.

Each organisation will have their own requirements on what to include within a daily assessment.

The following is a guide of the factors that may be considered


  • Venue
  • Activity type and session plan
  • Supervisor / Officer of the day / Safety lead / Coach / Lead instructor
  • Shore contact
  • Number of participants
  • Number of participant’s vessels
  • Number of safety boats
  • Start / finish time
  • Communication method
  • Staffing
  • Operating area.


  • Wind strength
  • Wind direction
  • Air temperature
  • Wind chill
  • Tide
  • Sailing area and sea state
  • Time on the water
  • Safety cover ratio
  • Participant competency
  • Water quality
  • Individual with specific needs that may need close supervision and monitoring.

Final decision

  • Additional control measures
  • Decision
  • Date
  • Signature of decision maker.

Return ashore

  • Confirm all returned ashore
  • Any issues / lessons learned.

You may choose to establish a scoring matrix for the daily assessment, considering each factor on a scale from low risk to very high risk. The person or committee responsible for safety on the water can establish a framework for sail / no sail decisions – above certain levels of risk you may require evidence of additional controls that have been put in place or confirm a no sail decision.

The advantage of a matrix and decision-making framework is that you are balancing the judgements of a competent person with a process that has been agreed by the organisation and that everyone accepts as part of the agreed operations.

Questions to ask - Daily risk assessment

Do you have a process for daily risk assessments?


Does anyone check the daily risk assessments to ensure they are being used properly, and to identify any trends or lessons?


Do you know the factors that are most important for you to assess for your operating area(s)?


Do you know who has been deemed competent to carry out daily risk assessments?



Dynamic risk assessment

Dynamic risk assessment is a continual monitoring and communication process by all those involved in managing safety on the water. It is about keeping your head out of the boat, spotting situations, and controlling them before they become problems. It:

  • May lead to abandoning or shortening sessions / activity / events
  • May lead to requesting additional support
  • Is usually not written, though there may be means of logging or noting key decisions / communications in case there is a need to account for what happened later
  • Participants and their individual need.

Questions to ask - Dynamic risk assessment

In observing a session on the water, can you see evidence of dynamic risk assessment taking place?


Do you have a process for noting key decisions taken as part of dynamic risk assessment?



Participants and their individual needs

The Sailability community has a collective knowledge about issues specific to sailing with disabled people and the good practice that emerges from these issues. The knowledge to date has been collated in a safety on the water guidance note.

The knowledge in this guide has been gathered from testing and observations as well as learning and recommendations from previous incidents. The guide discusses a number of issues and the implications for practice, including risk assessment practice.

If you have knowledge or practice to share, please get in touch.

Individual risk assessment

Some people may have health conditions that mean the risks involved need to be individually assessed so you and the individual concerned can make decisions based on:

  • the risk factors
  • the support that can put in place to keep all involved safe
  • people agreeing to participate with a clear picture of the risks involved.

It is always difficult to navigate situations where a person’s health or fitness is fluctuating or deteriorating, and they are unable to do things they used to be able to. It can be the case that the different parties involved will have different perspectives on the person’s health, capabilities and capacity, so there will be different views on what is possible and what is sensible.

If we have the capacity to make decisions (to go sailing or not) we have the right to make unwise decisions, or decisions that others would consider foolhardy. An organisation has to balance this with the duty of care they owe to keep others involved as safe as reasonably practicable.

So an individual risk assessment allows you to

  • Consider the context
  • Undertake a fact find
  • Identify the hazards and assess the risks
  • List all the available controls
  • Jointly (with the participant) decide on the controls to be used (the support needed)
  • Regularly review the controls – session by session if needed.

Through such a process, a vision can be shared (e.g. keep being involved for as long as possible), steps taken to achieve the vision but also an acknowledgement that there may come a time when either more controls (support) are needed or that the activity may not be possible.

An individual risk assessment is

A joint exercise

Involves the person with the health condition, any parents or carers they want to involve and the organisation – recognising the person is an expert in their health condition, the organisation is focussed on delivering safe activity on the water


Conditions for sailing change, health conditions progress or fluctuate; perceptions of what is possible vary – it is likely that the controls / support required to keep everyone safe will also vary over time, and may be added to or reduced session to session.

Questions to ask - Individual risk assessment

How do you recognise when a person’s health, fitness or capabilities might be an issue for ongoing involvement?


Do you have a process for assessing the risks involved, identifying the support possible and making decisions about future involvement?




Download our risk assessment templates:




Safety management system