Types of Risk Assessment

There are several ways of conducting and recording risk assessments and it is for each organisation to determine what methodology works best for its circumstances. In general, the RYA recommend a three step process:

  • Level 1 Pre-activity Hazard Identification & Risk Assessment
  • Level 2 Daily Risk Assessment
  • Level 3 Dynamic Risk Assessment
  • In some circumstances it may also be appropriate to conduct an Individual Risk Assessment for certain participants.

Level 1 HIRA

This HIRA is conducted in advance of any activity and covers the whole operation such as an entire season, similar sessions or a series of events / activities. It is used to identify all potential hazards and to assess those risks which can be identified in advance of the activity. Controls and mitigations may be imposed through the Standard Operating Procedures, Notice of Race, club protocols, resourcing or other actions which can be taken in advance.

For some hazards it may not be possible to assess their risk level until the day, but they should be identified where possible at this stage.

Typically a qualitative risk assessment template may be used for this assessment as the main aim is to identify all possible hazards and reduce or eliminate the risk where possible.

Level 2 Daily Risk Assessment

The daily risk assessment should be used as a planning tool to aid the decision to launch or not. It should be completed for each activity area by the activity leads such as the Course Race Officer or Senior Instructor before and may then need to be reviewed by the Principal Race Officer or Chief Instructor.

The daily risk assessment may lead to mitigations such as reducing fleet sizes or increasing safety cover for a particular day and should be used to capture risks such as weather which are unknown in advance.

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.

Level 3 – 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

Individual Risk Assessments

Some people may have health conditions or particular characteristics that mean risks need to be individually assessed so you can make decisions based on the risk factors, the support that can be put in place and 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. The different parties involved will have different perspectives 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
  • An individual risk assessment is:

  • A joint exercise that 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
  • Dynamic – 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.