What is risk assessment?

How to identify hazards then assess and control the associated risks.

School visits may take place on a wide variety of farms and horticulture units. Some of these will be operating as visitor centres, geared to visits from schools and/or the general public throughout the
year. Others may open only occasionally perhaps as a requirement of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme or even in direct response to a request from a local teacher. In all cases, the visit provider needs to pay close attention to health and safety issues as a part of the planning of an enjoyable and educational visit.

How can we assess the risks?

RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) has prepared the following worksheet. It is in a form that can be photocopied and used by teaching staff, pupils, and staff at farms to assess the risks involved with farm visits. As a safety education tool it can be used to ensure awareness of the hazards and discuss any safety measures that are in place, whether these are considered adequate and what possible improvements could be made.

It may be useful to first define hazard and risk:

  • Risk expresses the likelihood that the harm from a particular hazard will be realised (for example the risk of slipping on a patch of water).
  • A hazard is something with a potential to cause harm (the patch of water).
  • Hazards only present a risk when there is human interaction (someone treading in the patch of water).
  • A risk assessment involves identifying the hazards present then evaluating the extent of the risks involved, taking into account any precautions already in place (identifying the patch of water as a potential problem; noting that it will be walked past; a sign saying 'slippery floor' is
    in place).

Identifying the hazards:

What hazards are the visitors likely to face?

What kinds of behaviour will increase the risk?

Which hazards pose a significant risk if they are not managed?

How can these risks be controlled?

Might these measures create other hazards?


Assessing the risk:

How serious is the risk? (ie the potential injury or consequence).

What might increase the severity of injury? (eg running, the age of the person).

Who and how many are exposed to the risk?

How likely is it to occur? (previous accidents/incidents and the frequency of exposure to the hazard).


Controlling the risk:

Can the risk be avoided or minimised? Is the activity necessary?  Does the educational/social advantage outweigh the risk?  Are warnings provided - written, verbal?

Can the hazard be eliminated, avoided or substituted?

Can environmental controls - alterations to physical surroundings or features,
mechanisation etc - minimise or remove exposure to risk?

Can safer systems of work/play/activity be adopted? (e.g. by establishing a procedure or set of rules, providing better information, providing skills through training).

Is the use of personal protective equipment indicated where risk remains?


When should we assess the risks?

  • The farmer or grower should be reviewing hazards on an on-going basis and employing risk-assessment techniques.
  • The teacher should, wherever possible, make a pre-visit check on the location's risks. This is best carried out with the visit provider. If the farm/unit is not open to visits on a frequent basis, the provider may not be familiar with hazards which may present themselves to children. The teacher should point out any hazards that s/he feels need management.


What are the risks?

These are many and varied and exist in all areas of life - not just on the farm! Some of the most common causes of accidents are:

  • Slipping (wet surfaces in a glasshouse)
  • Tripping (hoses lying around)
  • Falls from a height (ladders, platforms)
  • Contact with moving vehicles (cars, tractors, fork- lift trucks)
  • Fire
  • Being trapped (collapsing hay bales, grain stores)
  • Exposure to cold/wet
  • Exposure to sun/heat
  • Exposure to infection

A number of hazards can be specific to farm and horticultural locations:

  • Failure to safeguard machinery
  • Failure to safeguard toxic substances, slurry pits and gases
  • Failure to safeguard flammable substances such as oil, fuel, hay and straw
  • Frantic farm activity
  • Male animals grazing, female animals with young

All of the above hazards pose risks that can be managed. Many of them can be eliminated at the pre-visit stage. The following guidelines may be useful when preparing for the visit:

  • Plan a safe route avoiding particularly busy areas.
  • Block access to hazardous areas. Temporary signs can be used if visits are infrequent. If visits are a main part of the business, permanent signage should be installed.
  • Make sure protective equipment is in place.
  • Blank off or remove ladders.
  • Keep children away from mature, grazing, male livestock and from female livestock with young.
  • Procedures using hazardous substances should not take place during a visit.
  • Lock away vetinary medicines, pesticides etc.
  • Avoid railings likely to be covered in manure.
  • Clean walkways prior to the visit, if possible.
  • Provide hand-washing facilities - this is vital. Running water and disposable paper towels should be provided.
  • Organise a designated eating area away from animals and hazardous activities.

Assessing the risk - a measured approach

First write down the hazard and then look at the severity of injury it may cause and write down the rating. Now look at the likelihood of that happening  and write down that rating. Multiply the two
numbers together to find the severity of the risk. 

Severity rating

Likelihood rating

5  Death/permanent disability

5  Will most certainly happen

4  Serious injury/long-term sickness

4  Highly likely to happen

3  Temporary disability - 3-day absence

3  Possible

2  Required medical attention

2  Might/less likely

1  Minor injury eg bruise, graze

1  Remote possibility





Risk Severity













Risk severity

Risk assessment


Unacceptable! requires immediate action


A high priority for action


Medium - do something as soon as possible


Low priority -  examine the practicality of change.


Low risk - no further action required