FAQs: Risk assessments for PTAs
Carrying out a risk assessment helps you protect
visitors from injury and prove that the school and PTA have taken
steps to minimise risk in case anything does go wrong.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is the process of identifying potential
dangers in a situation and putting measures in place to try and
avoid these dangers.
Examples of risks and solutions
Situation: summer fair held on the school
- Risk: Electric cables are required for some stalls, and these
wires are a trip hazard
- Preventative measure: Cables across walkways will be avoided
where possible and covered with cable protectors if there is no
Situation: Bouncy castle at event
- Risk: Children bouncing into each other may get hurt
- Preventative measure: Offer separate bouncy castles for
different age groups, so bigger children aren't on the same
inflatable as the younger ones. Allocate set times for different
age groups to play
Situation: Barbecue at event
- Risk: Visitors or volunteers may get burnt
- Preventative measure: Fence off the cooking area, ensure an
experienced person is running the barbecue and make sure it's never
Situation: A buffet at an event
- Risk: Food left out too long may become a food poisoning
- Preventative measure: Keep any food that needs to be
refrigerated in the fridge before the event. Make sure it's not
left out for longer than four hours and keep it in a cool location
away from the sun
Do we have to do a risk assessment?
Health and safety legislation doesn't require those who aren't
employers, self-employed or employees to perform risk assessments -
this includes voluntary organisations. However, because your PTA is
connected to the school, and the event is likely to be held on
school premises, it's good practice to assess to ensure everyone is
protected. As well as ensuring your visitors are safe, in the
unlikely event anything does go wrong, a risk assessment acts as
proof to your insurance company that you did your best to prevent
Although it may seem like a lot of effort to perform a risk
assessment every time you hold an event, new issues often arise, so
you should review and update your assessments each time. Updating a
risk assessment from a previous year for a recurring event
shouldn't prove too time-consuming.
Do I need any specialised training to do a risk
You don't need specific training to carry out a risk assessment,
but it should be done by a competent person. Ask the school if they
have a staff member familiar with doing risk assessments who can
advise the PTA or do the assessment on its behalf. Otherwise, draw
on the expertise of parents - someone will likely have risk
assessment experience from their job or other activities. It's
advisable to ensure the final risk assessment is approved by the
school, particularly if the event is to be held on the school
How do I do a risk assessment?
If you don't know where to start, get your committee together
and brainstorm potential risks for the event. Take a tour around
the venue and observe any potential issues. Two heads are better
than one, so take a partner along to help minimise the chance of
something being overlooked. Ask the school if you can consult their
risk assessment documents as a starting point.
The key to an effective risk assessment is to record significant
risks, which the HSE defines 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.' You don't need to include insignificant risks or
risks from everyday life. You don't need to take action if the
money, time or trouble required to reduce the risk are a lot higher
than the level of risk itself.
There is no set way in which you must carry out and record your
risk assessment, as long as you are including the relevant
information: what the risks are, who is at risk, what you're
already doing to control them 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
The assessment should be carried out long enough before your
event to allow time to implement any protective measures
Once you have recorded all the information you need, circulate a
copy to everyone who is helping with the event, i.e. the organising
committee and any helpers from the wider parent body. This way,
everyone knows what has been considered and what action needs to be
What risks might there be in a PTA setting?
Your risk assessment should cover all groups of people who might
be harmed by your event. In a PTA setting, this could be volunteers
and visitors, including children and young people. In a volunteer
environment, people are likely to be performing tasks at which they
are inexperienced, and this should be taken into account and the
risks minimised. When it comes to protecting children, if you are
unsure, talk to the school about any strategies and approaches they
have in place. Bear in mind the risks involved in your particular
school. Speak to the school to find out if there's anything you
need to take into consideration.
How often should we check our risk assessments?
Each time you hold an event, amend the risk assessment to
reflect any changes to the venue or the occasion. For each new
event, a new risk assessment should be performed.
As PTA committees change over so frequently, it's wise for new
committee members to be able to see previous risk assessments. Put
them into your handover pack and pass on to the next committee.
For more information, templates and interactive risk
assessment tools, visit the Health and Safety Executive website.
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