Making an assessment

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Step 1: Identify hazards

To accurately identify the potential hazards, carry out your assessment by walking around the club or centre, sailing around the sailing area or in a big boat environment walking around the vessel - and looking with 'fresh eyes' at what might possibly cause harm. Get help, ask your Instructors, staff, volunteers what they think, they may have noticed things which are not immediately obvious or that they may be more familiar with. Consider what it is about the activity or preparation that could cause risk or injure your members, volunteers, staff, or students. It may be useful to engage a "critical friend" from time to time. By engaging with someone from outside your club or centre who reviews your operation and assessment you reduce the likelihood of having missed something that you have become blind to simply because "it has always been done that way". You also benefit from the experience and knowledge that sits behind that fresh set of eyes.

When you work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards, so here are some tips to help you identify the ones that matter:

  • Check manufacturers, equipment or rigging guides.
  • Check data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in explaining the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.
  • Look back at accident and incident records, as well as any lessons learnt- these often help to identify the less obvious hazards.
  • Take account of non-routine operations (e.g. maintenance, cleaning operations or changes in production cycles).
  • Assess during operation. There is certainly value in assessing risk when the site is quiet to find the basics, it is equally important to conduct assessment of risks whilst monitoring the site in operation.
  • Implement a process so that whenever a new vessel or equipment is introduced there is a mechanism for risk assessment to occur before it goes into operation.

RYA clubs and centres are inherently safe places, despite the many risks that exists within operating areas and equipment use. They are safe because those in charge are generally very effective at assessing risk and managing it appropriately. It is also important that you assess any new initiatives e.g. new activities, equipment and individuals where a particular characteristic poses a new risk not covered by your standard operating procedures. Accidents occur during both RYA and non-training activities that have simply not been risk assessed effectively - The message here, 'ensure risk assessment processes covers ALL activities, not just those that are part of an RYA Training course'.

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Step 2: Assess the risk - Who might be harmed and how?

Those most obviously at risk are your members, volunteers and participants but do not forget contractors and staff.
Include members of the public, or people who share your sailing area, if there is a chance they could be hurt by your activities. Be clear about who might be harmed as this may help identify the best way of controlling the risk. Some people may have health conditions or particular characteristics that mean the risks need to be individually assessed.
Some people may have health conditions or particular characteristics that mean the risks need to be individually assessed

People instructing

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Step 3: Evaluate and control the risks

Having identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that harm will occur i.e., the level of risk and what to do about it. Remember - Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly. The aim is to follow the 'ALARP' principle and ensure all risks are suitably mitigated until they are As Low As Reasonably Practicable.

Generally, you need to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time, or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

Even after all precautions have been taken, usually some risk remains. What you need to decide for each significant hazard is whether this remaining risk is appropriately managed. Then ask yourself whether generally accepted sailing and windsurfing standards are in place. Your real aim is to reduce all risks by adding any necessary controls and precautions.

Do not attempt to ‘artificially’ remove hazards that are inherent in our sports, as participants may miss opportunities to develop their skills which may leave themunprepared for the hazards they may encounter when sailing elsewhere.

Your risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know - you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

When considering the mitigations to be put in place to reduce risk to a level that is ALARP, it should be borne in mind that some control measures will be more effective than others. This is known as the hierarchy of risk management.

Look at what you're already doing, and the control measures you already have in place. Ask yourself:

  • Can I get rid of the hazard altogether, whilst still retaining the natural feel and enjoyment of the activity?
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely? Some practical steps you could take:
  • trying a less risky option,
  • restricting access to a particular hazard,
  • can exposure to the hazard be controlled,
  • will the use of protective equipment or clothing be helpful?

Wherever practicable a mitigation measure in a higher tier should be chosen rather than simply selecting the easiest to implement. In some cases, it will be appropriate to combine multiple control measures from different tiers.

1 - 5 (Most effective - Least effective)

1. Elimination

  • Redesign the job so that the hazard is removed or eliminated.
  • For example, not launching in high winds or poor visibility

2. Substitution

  • Replace the process with a less hazardous one.
  • For example replace the RRS with IRPCAS during hours of darkness.

3. Engineering Controls

  • Where the task can't be removed or replaced is there any equipment or other measures that could be taken to separate the hazard from people.
  • For example, specifiying minimum safety equipment to be carried or utilising mast head floats

4. Administrative Controls

  • Where it is not possible to reduce the risk any further you can reduce the likelihood that people are exposed to the risk.
  • For example reducing the number of participants on the water or specifying ratios to be followed.

5. Personal Protective Equipment

  • Only after all previous measures have been considered and found ineffective in controlling the risk to a reasonably practicable level should PPE be used.

If you share a site, talk to the other users about risks identified which may affect them, including the control measures you have in place. Similarly, consider the risks to your participants, members, visitors, instructors, and staff from those who share the site.

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Step 4: record your findings

Within the UK, if you have fewer than five employees you are not legally required to record the findings of your assessment but it is useful to do this so you can review it a later date and enable you to evidence that you have complied with your duty of care. If you have five or more employees, you must record the significant findings of your assessment. You must also inform your employees about your findings.

The legal regimes will invariably differ in different territories and we therefore recommend you check the relevant law in your country of operation.

There is no need to show how you did your assessment, provided you can show that:

  • a proper check was made,
  • you asked who might be affected,
  • you dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, considering the number of people who could be involved,
  • the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low.

Make a record of your significant findings - the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks.

When writing down and recording your results keep it simple, an easy way to assess and record your findings is to use a risk assessment template, there is an example at the end of this document and on the HSE website.

Your risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, i.e., it should show that:

  • a proper check was made,
  • you asked who might be affected,
  • you dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, considering the number and types of people who could be involved,
  • the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low,
  • you involved staff, volunteers and members and other representatives in the process.

Once you have identified your risks, it might be helpful to put them in order of importance and address the most serious risks first, identifying long-term solutions for the risks with the biggest consequences, as well as those risks most likely to cause accidents or incidents. You should also establish whether there are improvements that can be implemented quickly, even temporarily, until more reliable controls can be put in place. Remember, the greater the hazard the more robust and reliable the measures to control the risk of an injury occurring will need to be.

Any paperwork you produce should help you to communicate and manage the risks in your club/centre. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise - just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded. Keep the written document for future reference and use; it can aid as a reminder to monitor risks identified, whilst also evidencing what the law requires. It can also aid as a reminder to monitor risks identified, whilst also evidencing what the law requires.

For those operating in harbour authority areas

The DfT (Department for Transport) Port Marine Safety Code requires all harbour authorities to ensure that risk assessments are carried out to identify and minimise risks which may result in personal injury, or damage to property or the environment. In appropriate cases, including events organised by yacht clubs or Training Centres, the risk assessment procedure may be delegated by the harbour authority to the event organisers. If an organiser is holding an event within the jurisdiction of a Harbour or Local Authority then a documented risk assessment may be required by that authority.

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.

Read more about types of risk assessment.

The RYA has produced templates which you may find useful for recording your own risk assessments:

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Step 5: Review your findings, controls
and assessments

Make sure your risk assessment is kept up to date. Our environment is ever evolving and is unlikely to stay the same, new equipment will be brought in and changes to procedures required that could lead to new hazards.

Carry out regular reviews of what you are doing, reflecting on your risk assessment asking yourself:

  • Have there been any significant changes?
  • Have we introduced any new equipment?
  • Have you learnt anything from accidents, incidents or near misses?
  • Are there improvements you still need to make?

Further Information

If operating in the UK, you will find most of what you need to know about legal requirements and standards in: HSE's risk management pages (including templates, as well as risk assessment tools and examples):

You can view HSE guidance online and order priced publications from the website:

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