Risk Management and Assessment
Risk assessment involves a careful examination of what, in the hotel, teaching room, fieldwork site, street, or town could cause harm to people.
What is a Hazard?
A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause injury or harm.
What is a Risk?
The risk is the likelihood, great or small, of the potential for harm being realised and causing an accident or incident. The extent of the risk takes into account how serious the injuries or outcomes are likely to be.
What is Reasonably Practicable?
This is a balancing act between the risk as described above and the cost in money, time, disruption, effort, etc. of the precautions needed to avoid the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level. High or medium risk activities do not form part of this Field Studies Centre's itineraries.
In practice, our selection of field study sites involves all, or most of these criteria:
- locations on, or close to minor roads, tracks or footpaths;
- a maximum journey of 30 minutes from the nearest emergency vehicle access point;
- locations already used by Catalan schools and universities;
- sites at low risk from climatic, geological, land instability, insect or human hazard;
- sites with marked and maintained footpaths that form part of sign-posted and publicised tourist itineraries;
- sites with paths that do not involve a 'scramble' up or down steep slopes;
- slopes with low or moderate inclines that may be traversed without the need for grasping trees, bushes, etc.;
- sites away from deep water (rivers: maximum depth of wellington boot height);
- sites away from cliff-tops;
- unpolluted areas;
- availability of alternative sites in the case of bad weather.
Besides careful site selection, safety has been enhanced by investment in:
- staff training - first aid, Spanish Red Cross life-saving, Mountain Leader Award and fieldwork site hazard management and assessment;
- the hiring of coaches with professional drivers from only the most reputable companies that meet all relevant regulations;
- the use of hotels with relevant Spanish Fire Certificates, hygiene standards, equivalent British regulations, English-speaking management and 24-hour reception cover;
- English-speaking staff;
- FM transceivers and/or mobile telephones for use of staff;
- safety helmets for work near (but not immediately adjacent to) cliff faces;
- life jackets for use when working near deep river pools (1-2 metres depth);
- gloves for work in streams;
- student identification cards.
These criteria and investments help to reduce most risks that students may encounter to the minor level, but within all study sites students may potentially encounter unexpected or uncontrollable risks. Risk management should aim to assess such unexpected or uncontrollable events. All study sites have therefore been assessed with this in mind, following the five steps:
- identification of hazards;
- assessment of the risk, who will be affected and how seriously;
- evaluation of measures of control and actions to be taken;
- recording of findings;
- monitoring and periodical review.
Risk assessment specifically involves:
- staff and students being aware of potential hazards and dangers;
- adequate supervision;
- knowledge of how to help oneself and others in danger, including how and where to seek help should an incident or accident occur;
- sound judgement by all supervising staff of what constitutes a dangerous situation;
- the prevention of access to dangerous situations for those ill-equipped to cope.
Specific procedures exist at the Centre for:
- emergency evacuation from the hotel;
- fire safety;
- dealing with illness or accidents;
- First Aid;
- premises (general);
- road safety;
- site visits;
- use and care of field study equipment.
In summary, our aim is to:
- prevent accidents through foresight, careful preparation, planning and communication;
- provide itineraries tailored to the age/experience and ability of group members;
- provide adequate warnings and advice about field study sites and use of equipment;
- conduct activities following normal and accepted practice for the particular age and ability group;
- work within policy guidelines;
- provide swift and effective attention in the case of illness or injury.
Risk assessments are available for all our fieldwork sites. An example of an assessment for one of our accommodation providers is given in a menu link on this page. We have no reported accidents or recorded incidents on supervised fieldwork with any of our groups to date (April 2000-December 2023).