Risk Assessment and why you should write one. Free template.

Click here for the free template.

If you sell your goods at craft fairs, pop up shops, farmers markets or similar events then you need to be here. Not selling yet or just in the planning stages? That’s even better. This article will help you plan your booth layout, helping you to consider problems before they arise or, even worse, when the organiser asks you to change your display as customers are coming through the door.

First lets consider what a risk assessment is and why you should do one. A risk assessment demonstrates that you have considered the impact your actions have on others, how likely problems are to occur and how you can minimise their effects. Essentially, the reason for carrying out a risk assessment is to prevent harm. Furthermore, a risk assessment protects you and your business against legal action, should a problem arise.

Every event you attend, from the £5 stall at the local school to the £1500 three day event at an arena, should be telling you to have public liability insurance, PLI. In brief, this protects you and your business should you be subject to legal action from a member of the public. Most public liability insurance policies are only valid if you have completed, and complied with, a full risk assessment of your activities. While your event organiser will not always need to see a copy of your risk assessment it is best to have a copy with you, particularly when your stall may be seen as potentially high risk. The only way to determine if your stall is potentially high risk is to complete a risk assessment. However, items displayed at height, use of electricity, homemade props, glassware and heavy items will be the first thing to ring alarm bells as the organiser reviews your set up.

You should also consider doing a product risk assessment. This would examine how safe the products are that you sell. For example, as a leather worker I always use solid brass hardware on my dog collars. This prevents them from coming apart when the dog pulls on the lead. While there are no legal requirements relating to dog collar manufacturing, I would not be happy selling a product I wasn’t confident was 100% fit for purpose. If you are selling products where there are legal requirements, such as soaps, cosmetics, candles or children’s toys, then a product risk assessment is of equal importance to the event risk assessment detailed here.

Secondly lets look at the different aspects of a risk assessment and what you need to write in each column. If you haven’t printed the free template now would be a good time to do so. I find it helpful to scribble notes as I go and type up later but you could split screen and type as you read. There’s a PDF and Microsoft Word version available. There are hundreds of different formats for risk assessments, many of which are equally valid. If you already have a risk assessment there is no need to scrap it and start again but a review is always helpful, particularly if you are in a new venue, have new stock or will be taking new display props.

Column 1: Hazard

The simplest way to define a hazard is ‘something that can go wrong.’ Dictionary definitions are often incorrect and confusing, stating that a hazard is a risk. For the purpose of risk assessment they are two very different things. An example of a hazard is ‘trips and falls’. At this point it is perfectly acceptable to write ‘trips and falls’ in column one and move on to column two. You can also choose to be more in depth, especially if the possibility of tripping or falling is increased with your stall set up. For example, ‘trips and falls on long tablecloth’, ‘trips and falls on gazebo pegs’ and ‘trips and falls on floor standing baskets’ are all examples of a more in depth approach.

Column 2: Person(s) at risk

As a rule there are four possible groups at risk from your activities. These include the public, other stallholders, venue staff and yourself/myself. You should consider which groups are at risk, list them in column 2 and move on to column 3. Generally, other stall holders can be grouped with the public but often they are the ones most at risk from your actions. An example scenario may be; Your stall requires power to illuminate your jewellery display. The public do not have access to the back of your stall. Your stall sits forward from the wall and there is a trailing cable. In this case you should list ‘trips and falls from trailing cable’ in the hazards column and identify those specifically at risk in column 2.

Column 3: Control measures in place

A control is simply defined, in risk assessment terms, as ‘an action you take to minimise harm’. It is important to recognise that not all hazards can be reduced to a zero possibility of harm. Control measures simply demonstrate that you have made your actions as safe as they can possibly be.

There are often several control measures for each hazard that you identify in column 1. Let’s consider our most common hazard, ‘trips and falls’. What should you do, as a stallholder, to ensure that no one trips or falls as a result of your actions, or your failure to take action? Let’s use a yarn and knitwear stall as an example. Ordinarily your knitted items are on a low level table display. Your yarn is displayed in baskets which, on a trial set up at home, look great on the floor in front of your stall. During the event they will in fact be sitting forward from your table and blocking the aisle. Your control measures here would be, ‘ensure yarn baskets fit securely on the table’ and possibly, ‘store extra yarn in boxes underneath the table’. You also have a long tablecloth so an additional control measure would be, ‘Use bulldog clips to secure the tablecloth’.

As you write your risk assessment many of the control measures will appear to be common sense and not important enough to be included. The best advice I can give you is to include them anyway. It is always better to be over prepared and remember that risk assessment should consider a worst case scenario. It is not safe to assume that all visitors to your event will have a certain level of common sense that will prevent them from harm. Just remember that peanut butter has to have a nut allergy warning on the label and use this as your benchmark.

Column 4: Risk score

A risk score is a statement of how likely harm is to occur based on what you have written in columns 1-3. This can be a qualitative statement and you can simply write high, medium or low. However, quantitative is always best as you can give your assessment more measurable numbers.

To come up with a number we use a risk matrix. Again, there are many different ways to do this but this is the one I use as a teacher carrying out practical Chemistry lessons.

For each hazard you allocate a score based on the likelihood of it happening. Unfortunately there is no definitive list of scores so here you must use your common sense. Let’s exaggerate a little here and say it’s likely that a member of the public will trip on your tablecloth, even with your bulldog clip control measure in place. We’re giving it a likelihood score of 3. Now, once the person has tripped and fallen they will have some pain in their knee but can walk and require no medical attention.

We give it a severity score of 2. You then multiply your likelihood score by your severity score.

3 x 2 = 6

6 falls under a yellow category on the risk assessment matrix. This means that you do not have to take any additional actions, column 5, but you should monitor the hazard. Monitoring means that if someone does actually trip you should re-assess the hazard in question and think of a new control measure. This could be ‘purchase an elasticated tablecloth to eliminate trip hazards’.

Anything green on the matrix requires no further action.

Anything that is red, scores of 10 or above, should be reassessed and additional control measures put in place. It is unlikely that anything you do at a craft fair will be red on the matrix. If you are getting red scores it is probably best to reassess and then contact the organiser for advice. If you are saying that you will leave your yarn balls in a large pile in front of your table, right next to a jar of knitting needles that could impale a person as they fall, you’re going to be a 20+. However, the control measures identified in column 3 mean that you are going to take action to remove this scenario as a possibility.

Column 5 - Further actions required

Once you have completed column 4, your risk scores, column 5 has 3 possible outcomes. For any green scores, 4 or below, you just write ‘none’ in column 5. For yellow scores, between 5 and 9, you write ‘continue and monitor’. For any red scores , 10 or above, you should list the extra control measures in column 5. This should reduce your score to below 10. If it doesn’t then you need to contact the organiser for advice.

In conclusion, risk assessment is a tool to reduce the impact of your actions. It is done in order to protect yourself and your business from the consequences of legal action. Even if you complete a risk assessment with green scores of 1 right across the board it is still essential that you have public liability insurance. Product liability insurance is not as essential to an event organiser but please bear in mind that trading standards can visit an event at any time and will require evidence that you are fulfilling your legal responsibilities with regards to your products. I will be doing further articles on these topics over the coming weeks so be sure to sign up for the mailing list updates. The next article will look at risk assessment for demonstrations and workshops and how you can apply the knowledge from this article to those more specific situations.

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