Risk assessments for public engagement activities

Spiral staircase in Castle HouseThis toolkit is for University staff and students who are looking to understand the risk assessment process and minimise potential risks at an event.

The page covers:

  • The risk assessment process
  • Identifying potential risks
  • Assessing the level of risk


Risk assessments

The primary reason to conduct a risk assessment is to prevent accidents and minimise the risk of harm to staff and visitors. If you are undertaking a public event either on or off University premises you are legally obligated to undertake a risk assessment exercise and complete a risk assessment form. The person who is responsible for overseeing the event should be responsible for undertaking the risk assessment and for minimising any risk. Once the risk assessment has been completed, you must ensure that any control measures that have been identified are put in place.

You should start to think about doing your risk assessment early in the event planning process so that risks can be managed in the planning process rather than discovering them on the day. All completed risk assessment forms should be retained and filed with the relevant event documents.

The risk assessment process

If you are undertaking an event either on or off University premises you will need to complete a risk assessment form and a risk assessment exercise. If your event is:

  • On university premises – use the University risk assessment form
  • Off university premises – use the venue’s form (if available) or the University risk assessment form (if the venue does not have its own form). You will also need to complete a risk assessment form if your event is taking place outside, for example in a park or in Sheffield city centre. You may need a long lead in time for the risk assessment form to be considered by the venue.

Risk assessment is carried out in 5 steps:

  • Step 1: Identify hazards
  • Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
  • Step 3: Evaluate the risks.
  • Step 4: Record your findings and implement them.
  • Step 5: Review -¬ and revise your assessment if necessary.

Identifying potential risks

A risk assessment should identify potential risks and actions to minimise the potential for them to happen. When completing the form, you may need to consider the following issues about your event (there is a full list of considerations on the risk assessment form):

  • Type of event
  • Public safety
  • Type of audience and expected numbers
  • Needs of any external speakers
  • Equipment that will be used at the event
  • Venue and context
  • Is your event about something controversial or is there any the reputational risk to the University?

You may also need to consider the following in relation to the venue

  • Emergency evacuation procedures
  • Reducing accidents from trips and falls
  • Toilet provision
  • Anti-social behaviour

Assessing the level of risk

Once you have identified the risks you need to rate the likelihood of the risk occurring against how sever the risk could be (from minor to fatal). You then need to think about putting actions in place to minimise the risks (control measures). Control measures may include:

  • Having enough people on hand to staff the event
  • Employing additional security staff
  • Making sure equipment is properly stored
  • Ensuring trip hazards are minimised (e.g. securing lose cables, ensuring correct lighting levels and having staff to direct the audience)
  • Making sure emergency exits are not blocked

Finally you will need to calculate the ‘risk score’ using the matrix on the risk assessment form. Activities that rate high or very high risk activities cannot go ahead until appropriate controls have been put in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.