Charity Risk Assessments

  • Risk assessments are a simple and effective way for charities and not-for-profit organisations to minimise the risk of harm to people and property
  • Common misconceptions – such as the belief that risk assessments are a box-ticking exercise – can reduce their effectiveness
  • We offer simple guidance to help you get the risk assessment process right

Many charities and not-for-profit organisations are required to carry out risk assessments, sometimes as a condition of their public liability insurance. These tips will guide you through the risk assessment process.

Risk assessment tips for charities and not-for-profit organisations

General risk assessments are required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and specific risk assessments are required by a number of other pieces of legislation such as the Control of Hazardous Substances Regulations. Risk assessments are also the most effective way for organisations of all sizes to control and mitigate foreseeable risks. However, too often they are treated as a box-ticking exercise.

Common misconceptions – for example, that risk assessments are a time-consuming chore, or that they only need to be reviewed once a year – can limit their effectiveness. In this article, we consider the key elements of developing a risk assessment.

What are risk assessments for and what should they cover?

Risk assessments are a simple way of identifying potential hazards that could put individuals and property at risk. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach – they should be tailored to what your organisations does and the particular risks you could face.

However, every risk assessment should:

  • Identify potential hazards
  • Identify who or what could be most at risk from these hazards
  • List measures being taken to address hazards and identify any additional action needed
  • Allocate responsibility for risk improvement actions, with clear timescales

You should also review your risk assessment processes following any serious incident, such as a fire, flood or accident.

How detailed should risk assessments be?

A risk assessment does not always have to be a lengthy document. The important thing is to have a straightforward system to identify and prioritise risks, and to formally record any actions taken to mitigate them.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a number of useful resources and tools that can help organisations develop robust risk assessments.

Who should carry out risk assessments?

You should nominate a ‘competent person’ to oversee the process. A competent person is defined by the HSE as “someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.” The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.

This does not necessarily mean somebody who has undergone specialist training or received any specific formal qualifications in health and safety, although some pieces of legislation do require specific qualifications in technical areas. The important thing is that whoever you entrust to carry out your risk assessments is aware of legal requirements, best practice and understands the work and services carried out.

How should risk assessments be recorded?

A logbook is a simple way to keep a record of your organisations risk assessments and any actions taken to mitigate risks.

Logbooks should include space to record the dates and times of assessments or training, and brief details of what was covered. If any potential hazards are identified, it is important to note any action taken to reduce or eliminate the risk.

Keeping it simple

Developing a risk assessment process does not have to be complicated or time-consuming.

You can create general and specific risk assessments that identify and address the hazards particular to your organisation. By regularly reviewing these documents as your circumstances change, you could go a long way to mitigating some of the biggest risks your organisation could face.

The HSE provides a straightforward risk assessment template that you can tailor to your organisation’s particular needs.

Risk assessment support for charities

To find out more about risk assessments for charities and not for profit organisations, you can access our ‘guide to making risk management simple‘ or watch our risk assessment webinar about assessing risks in uncertain times.

If your charity or not-for-profit organisation is insured with Zurich, you’ll automatically be able to access our Local Community Advisory Service (LCAS) which provides a health and safety advice line and an interactive guide, containing tools and information to help you understand and manage risks in your organisations.