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Professional Support for PE & Outdoor Learning

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Risk Assessment in Physical Education

Many teachers become intimidated by the concept of risk assessment. This is sometimes because they have taught for many years and never did them in the past, and never had an accident. Contrarily, some teachers have been influenced by the mind-set that you have to risk assessment everything, it is considered an onerous bureaucratic process and ultimately it is not worth the hassle!

In Physical Education, Risk Assessment is indeed mandatory in law, but it does not have to be an overly complicated process.

Do not be put off by this requirement. It is simply good practice showing forethought and sound planning.

It is a legal requirement set out in the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999.

Risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to pupils, colleagues or others in order not to compromise safety in meeting other education objectives.

Its purpose is to ensure that teachers have taken precautions to minimise or prevent harm.

Keep the risk assessment simple.

A "hazard" is anything which could cause harm – a steep slope on the hills or hard cricket ball.

A "risk" is the chance, great or small, that someone may be harmed by the hazard – such as falling down a steep slope or a player being struck by a hard cricket ball.

The teacher's role (and other staff) is to decide whether a hazard is significant and whether it is covered by appropriate precautions (controls) in order to eliminate or minimise the risk.

Use commonsense in thinking through the event in a logical sequence to establish what each phase of the activity involves. Identify what might go wrong and who may be harmed or affected by a risk. Then think about what precautions have been taken in the planning and whether further precautions are necessary. This is risk control.

It is a requirement to keep a brief record of the risk assessment. A suggested format is provided overleaf with simple guidelines.

It is a valuable exercise for all adults involved to participate in the assessment as it helps raise awareness of possible risks, establishes collective expertise and ensures that all understand the organisational requirements.

There is no need to show how the assessment was made, simply that it was carried out, that the precautions are reasonable and that the remaining risk is low – i.e. that a proper check was made.

After the event, review the record and note any particular hazard, risk or action which should additionally be included in the risk assessment next time.

Keep the written record for future reference and to save time and effort for visits, journeys and events which are repeated. The suggested format provides for signed and dated reviews. Annual reviews are usually adequate.

It is the responsibility of the governors, Headteacher and teacher to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out and that control measures are appropriate.

Carrying out a Risk Assessment