FAQs: Risk assessments for PTAs

Risk assessments are an important part of event planning. What are they, and how should they be amended to cover the threat of Covid-19?

What is a risk assessment?

Conducting a risk assessment is the process of identifying potential threats in a situation, deciding how they might cause harm and taking action to mitigate or eliminate them. Think about new elements you're introducing into your environment, who's involved, and how they will be affected by your plans. Share the risk assessment with everyone concerned. Review and update as plans evolve.

Do we need to have a risk assessment by law?

Health and safety legislation doesn't require voluntary organisations to perform risk assessments. However, because your PTA is connected to the school, it's good practice to make sure everyone's protected. With new risks from Covid-19, it's sensible to record the actions you're taking to keep everyone safe, such as putting a one-way system in place or requiring participants to wear face coverings in defined areas. If anything does go wrong, a risk assessment proves to your insurance company that you did your best to prevent it.

Do I need any specialised training to do a risk assessment?

You don't need specific training to carry out a risk assessment, but a competent person should do it. Ask the school if they have a qualified staff member who can advise the PTA or complete the assessment on its behalf. Otherwise, draw on the expertise of parents – someone will likely have experience. It's advisable to have the final risk assessment approved by the school if the event will be on their premises.

How do I perform a risk assessment?

Get your committee together and brainstorm potential risks. Take a tour around the venue and observe any potential issues, bringing a companion along as a second pair of eyes. Ask the school if you can consult their risk assessment documents as a starting point.
You don't need to include commonplace risks from everyday life or take action if the money, time or trouble required to reduce the risk are much higher than the level of risk itself.

There is no set way to complete your risk assessment, as long as you include the relevant information: what the risks are, who is at risk, what you're already doing to control the risks and what further measures are required. A table is often the easiest method.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also has a range of templates on its website. Download the village hall checklist and classroom checklist to help identify potential issues.

When should I carry out my risk assessment?

Leave enough time before your event to implement any protective measures identified. Once you have recorded all the information you need, circulate a copy to everyone involved so it's clear what has been considered and what action should be taken.

What risks might there be in a PTA setting?

The key to an effective risk assessment is to record significant risks specific to your event. The Health and Safety Executive defines these as 'those that are not trivial in nature and are capable of creating a real risk to health and safety which and reasonable person would appreciate and would take steps to guard against.'

Your risk assessment should cover all groups of people who might be harmed by your event, for example, volunteers and visitors, including children and young people. If volunteers are likely to be performing tasks at which they are inexperienced, take this into account and minimise the risk to them. Talk to the school about any specific strategies and approaches they have in place to protect children.

Consider Covid safety if your event involves bringing groups of people together, especially if they are from different families or bubbles. Check current government guidance and speak to the school about what they will permit. Communicate your expectations and the measures you have in place to all participants, for example, the availability and use of hand sanitiser or any requirements for social distancing.

How often should we review our risk assessments?

Carry out a new risk assessment for each new event you hold. For recurring events, review and update existing assessments to address any new issues which may have arisen. Whenever your committee changes, be sure to include risk assessments in your handover pack.

For more information

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.