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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Lesson 2: Be able to demonstrate how to assess and manage risk

Lesson 2: Be able to demonstrate how to assess and manage risk

Executive Committees are now known as Trustee Boards. This came into effect for members in Scotland in July 2023, and all others from April 2023. 'Executive Committee' and associated wording will still be visible on Compass, in eLearning and the website as we adopt this and other changes to how we volunteer. 

In this workbook Executive Committee can also be read as Trustee Board.  

Everything we do involves an element of risk, so we have to have plans in place to manage this. 

This is called a risk assessment. Don’t worry; we all do risk assessments or safety checks every day, for example, when we cross the road. We choose an appropriate place to cross, look both ways and make a decision about whether it’s safe to cross. 

We know that children learn by doing. Activities encourage the development of young people and they can feel a huge sense of achievement in completing them. We want to provide EXCITEMENT but not DANGER; ADVENTURE but not HAZARD. 

So how can we help you do a risk assessment? 

There are five simple steps. If you’ve done risk assessments elsewhere, these should look familiar. Let’s look at each of the steps now: 

A hazard’s anything that could cause harm. It could be cables across the floor, a slippery or uneven surface, or the weather – these are all unsafe conditions. Unsafe acts could be a hazard as well.

Now we’ve learnt about hazards, let’s now think about who might be harmed.

  • Young people. Young people might not recognise a hazard, especially younger members or those with additional needs. Teenagers are also more likely to take risks, so we need to be aware of how they perceive risk in order to help keep them safe. Similarly, younger sections, like Beavers, will require more supervision. 
  • Visitors. Some people might’ve simply got used to a hazard being present and how they behave around it, but visitors might not know that the hazard’s present. Think about that heavy entry door – those who come through it every week know how it closes but new visitors won’t be aware. Think about how this could be kept open; use signs to make people aware or supervise the entrance.
  • Adults. Adults are often very good at identifying hazards which might hurt young people but can sometimes forget to look after themselves. We also find that adults sometimes do things which they’re not used to, which can result in injury (perhaps we’re not as flexible or strong as we think we are!). 

You also need to think about how someone may be harmed. Someone falling from a wall will be injured differently depending on how high the wall is or what surface they land on – this is the how

Knowing who may be harmed and how they may be harmed means you can now think about what the risk is. Risk is the chance of someone being harmed by the hazard. For example, walking along a wall a foot from the ground has little risk, but walking along a six-foot wall with no railings has a high risk of harm. 

The InTouch system 

Whenever any activity, event or meeting is run within Scouts, it's a requirement that an InTouch system is put in place (POR 9.1). This is to make sure: 

  • everyone involved is aware of how communication will take place between the Leaders, volunteers, young people, parents and carers, and those not at the event 

  • there are details of who's present should anything go wrong and there's a system in place in the event of an emergency. 

The procedures put in place to ensure this are likely to vary at different types of events due to the differing circumstances and needs. To facilitate this, InTouch is a process that you must follow to make sure that everyone is clear as to what will be put in place for every Scouts event. 

The next step is working out how to control the risk: this is how we reduce it. When deciding how risks are going to be controlled, it’s useful to work through the following questions, in this order:

  1. Can the hazard be removed entirely?
  2. Is there a less risky option?
  3. What can be done to reduce the risk of people being in contact with the hazard?
  4. What instructions and supervision are needed?
  5. Is protective or safety equipment available to reduce risk?

When considering these questions, you should also consider what’s reasonably practicable. Don’t just simply go for the quickest or cheapest option but think about what would be deemed reasonable for you to put in place as a control.

Just thinking about a risk assessment isn’t enough. It needs to be written down and shared with the other adults and young people involved. Documenting it helps you think it through and is easier to review when you next do a similar activity. It also makes sure that what you’ve decided to do is clear and well communicated.

There are lots of options for this, which we’ll work through now.:

  • Executive Committees must make sure that risk assessments are documented for all premises which they own or operate. Leaders need to make sure that they have access to these premises’ risk assessments, whether that’s your weekly meeting place or the activity centre you’re staying at for the weekend, because they’ll include things which will help with the development of your activity risk assessments.
  • You’ll have plenty of activities in your programme that you do all the time: it could be the arrival, start, end and departure of your meeting or the standard way you run cooking or crafts activities with your section. These activities will be risk assessed and then documented. This document should be reviewed each time you do the activity so that you can check if it applies that day or whether anything needs to be changed (we’ll tell you more about how to do this later in this training).
  • There will also be bigger activities or those you do less often. You’ll need to make sure a risk assessment is done before the activity takes place and that it’s documented.

Don’t just keep this information to yourself; it’s important to tell others about what you’ve done and what measures are in place to keep activities safe.

We’ve talked about sharing risk assessments with young people.

Involving young people in keeping activities safe is really important. We know young people learn by doing activities that teach them #SkillsForLife. Regardless of who’s involved, everyone should feel that they can stop an activity if they feel it’s unsafe.

For example, an adult could raise their concerns with another adult, or the young people in an archery session could be taught to shout ‘Stop!’ if they see anyone breaking the rules. 

Explain to the young people and adults how they may be harmed and what is in place (rules, controls) that will reduce the chance of that happening. 

Briefing young people about the risks will help them to stay safe and to learn. With younger members, it can be as simple as explaining not to run with scissors and why, and how to hold them correctly and safely.

There are lots of ways of recording your risk assessments: we have an online template but you could also try annotating your activity instructions sheet, making notes on a phone, using an online risk assessment tool or an audio recording would be acceptable if you’re not able to record your risk assessment in writing.

It’s all about finding something that works for you. Just be sure that you can show you’ve been through the five steps and have communicated it with others.

Activities should be reviewed while they are happening.

Documenting your risk assessments isn’t the end of the process; you need to make sure they’re regularly reviewed. During an activity, things may change – you need to be able to respond and change the activity if needed. This is called a dynamic risk assessment. For example, you’ve risk assessed for a walk and it starts to rain.

You need to decide if you continue the walk or you take shelter. This is what we mean by dynamic risk assessment, responding to the changing situation. This is a vital step in the process, as failure to notice or respond to changes will create or increase risk. 


Don‘t forget that, as part of your programme planning, you should have alternative activities in reserve just in case you can’t do what was planned or you need to stop halfway through. Make sure this is shared with those involved, so everyone knows how to respond.

All risk assessments must be reviewed if there’s been a change of circumstances or equipment, or if there’s been an accident or near miss. A near miss is something which could’ve resulted in injury or damage but didn’t. This is something we should learn from to make sure that, in the future, we avoid these near misses.

Risk assessments should also be reviewed every 12 months as a minimum to see if anything’s changed and updated as needed, again making sure any changes are clearly explained to those involved.

Summary of risk assessment

So that’s risk assessment – those five simple steps are all there is to it. If you’d like more help with it, support’s available from your line manager.

  1. Look for the hazards.
  2. Who might be harmed and how?
  3. How are the risks controlled?
  4. Record and communicate
  5. Review and revise plans where needed

Download the PDF

The Safety workbook is available download and print.

Download the Safety workbook