Assessing Risks

As an event organiser, you have a responsibility to the public to ensure that your event is run in as safe a manner as possible.

A risk assessment shows that you have thought through the safety implications of the activity and have taken all possible steps to reduce risks. If you are faced with a claim or prosecution relating to health and safety, your risk assessment could have a significant role.

Risk assessments are easier than you might think – you’ll probably do one without thinking – see the ‘example risk assessment’ below.

There are five steps to writing a risk assessment:

Hazards identified
Hazard severity
Likelihood of occurrence
Residual risk rating
Control measures required

Hazards identified

A hazard is anything that has the potential to harm someone. Think about what could go wrong and write them down. Don’t worry too much about how you write – informal risk assessments are quite acceptable, i.e. the marquees might catch fire.

Hazard severity

If something goes wrong, how bad could it be? Rate the level of severity as Low, Medium or High. You can combine two ratings if you need to. For example, the marquees might catch fire and the severity rating would be High.

Likelihood of occurrence

How likely is it to happen (if you don’t take any actions to reduce the risk beyond controls that are already in place) – use the same scale as you used for Hazard severity ie the likelihood of the marquees catching fire would be Low.

Residual risk rating

Using the same scale of measurement, this is a representation of the average of the hazard severity rating and the likelihood of occurrence rating. An easy way to work it out is by using the following scores – Low =1; Medium =2; High = 3. To work out the average, add the scores of hazard severity and likelihood together and divide by 2; this is the Residual Risk. Using our example, the marquees catching fire would have a residual risk of 3 + 1 = 4; 4 / 2 = 2; 2 = Medium.

Control measures required

What realistic action can you take to remove the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level? Most of the time there will be a simple answer solution – you need to identify it and make sure that that it is carried out every time that risk is present. If there is more than one solution, choose the most appropriate bearing in mind the residual risk rating, access to manpower and financial considerations. In our example, to reduce the risk of marquees catching fire, you could use fire-retardent materials; have fire extinguishers in clearly signed positions; have a fire warden on duty at all times; make sure that the marquee is a safe distance from any bonfire or fireworks.

An example

Mrs Wright holds a quilting morning for young mothers at her home.  Six mothers attend with their children. Two other mothers expressed an interest in coming recently but Mrs Wright turned them down as she thought there would be too many children.

A parent once asked if she could bring their family dog. Mrs Wright said no as she thought the dog might be too boisterous and hurt a child.  As a matter of course, Mrs Wright keeps the children out of the kitchen when she is preparing hot drinks and makes sure that all cups are tidied away as soon as they are finished with.  Without thinking Mrs Wright has conducted a mental risk assessment and done what she can to reduce risks.


It’s not often possible to completely remove all risks. Fencing off a generator with warning signs on the fence is generally an acceptable way of minimising the risk to the public caused by an unfenced, unsigned appliance. However this won’t stop someone who is determined to climb over the fence! What you have done is minimised the risk to a reasonably acceptable level and that’s what Risk Assessments are all about!  Finally, it is good practice to keep a log book of any accidents that do take place, recording the time, date, nature of accident, action taken and witnesses names and statements; you should also consider using the records of the accident or incident to see what you can do to prevent their recurrence.  This too forms part of your management of your risks, or your risk assessment.

Risk Assessment Example – Theatre Group meeting

Hazards identified Hazard severity Likelihood of occurrence Residual risk rating Control measures required
Personal injury to children resulting from overcrowding Low/Medium (2) High (3) 2 + 3 = 5;5 / 2 = 2.52.5 = Medium/ High Numbers to be restricted to 7 adults and 9 children
Personal injury to children resulting from hot liquid spillage in the kitchen High (3) Medium/High (3) 3 + 3 = 6;6 / 2 = 33 = High Children to be prohibited from entering kitchen

Further information

Further information on Risk Assessments is available from the Health and Safety Executive, website

Safety Advisory Group

Each district Council operates a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) to provide advice and assistance to event organisers.  It comprises senior officers from all the emergency services (police, fire and rescue service, ambulance, NHS trust) as well as Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and other relevant organisations.

The groups meet regularly to consider forthcoming events and organisers are strongly recommended to make contact with their SAG at an early stage in the process – 6 months before the date of the event would be suitable, though attendance at the SAG meeting might take place closer to it.

Involving SAG also enables the agencies to consider the implications and ensure that there are sufficient resources available should there be an incident for which they are required.

Typical examples of events would include:

fetes and fairs
open-air concerts and music festivals
trade shows
sporting events
open-air entertainment
firework displays
large-scale company parties
processions, marches and carnivals
street parties
religious events

Each SAG has a referral form, which organisers are encouraged to complete and submit, to provide initial details about the event they are planning.  This will enable the SAG to determine whether organisers should attend a meeting and, if so, to schedule a suitable ‘slot’.   For Cambridge City Council please visit


Download a Risk Assessment Powerpoint document
Download or read an Example Risk Assessment
Download an Event Risk Assessment Template

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