Youth and children’s camps and excursions can give our kids the opportunity to enjoy a time away from normal day-to-day life, often in a natural setting. They can also provide them the chance to learn some new and valuable physical and life skills and to increase their self-confidence in the process.
Of course there are risks involved in this. And while it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, the important thing is that the hazards are identified and that a documented management plan is put in place beforehand, in order to minimise risk of harm as much as possible.
Churches that run children’s / youth excursions or camps have a duty of care towards all participants, staff, and volunteers involved in such events. As such it’s vital to look at all areas of risk and plan well ahead of time.
What does risk management involve?
Risk management is a five-step process involving:
- Identification of hazards.
- Analysing the likelihood and consequences of harm occurring.
- Implementing a plan to control risks and reduce harm.
- Documentation of findings.
- Monitoring and reviewing.
More detailed information on the basics of risk management can be found here.
Risk considerations for camps and excursions
Risk management is not limited to physical activities. There are a number of areas to consider – including transport safety, emergency procedures, food hygiene, adequate training of staff and volunteers, supervision of participants, and medical conditions among others.
Risky physical activities may include:
- Ropes courses.
- Bush walks.
- Giant swings and flying foxes.
- Rock climbing, and indoor climbing.
- Swimming and other water activities.
- Overnight camping.
See our article here for more information on the safety issues around physical activities on church-run camps.
Other areas to consider (links to other articles included):
- Transport safety.
- Venomous bites and stings.
- Burns from fires, or scalds.
- Food safety.
- Allergies and anaphylactic shock.
- Lightning strikes.
- Temperature extremes.
- First Aid.
- Becoming lost.
- Medical conditions, such as asthma.
Risk management steps for camps and excursions
- Identify hazards – for this step it might be necessary to decide on a level of acceptable risk and focus on those hazards that might lead to injuries, other types of harm, or liability. Hazards might be identified through site inspections, volunteer working-with-children and training checks, vehicle inspections, viewing weather and fire reports, checking mobile reception of remote areas, examining parent consent forms for participant health issues, and so forth.
- Analyse the risks – this involves considering how the hazard might cause harm, as well as the degree and consequences of harm that could occur. Examples of this might include considering the type of injuries that could occur from the use of equipment, from vehicle accidents, exposure to extreme weather, or from allergic reactions.
- Develop risk control plans – involves drawing up treatment plans in case of injury or harm, such as First Aid and emergency procedures, methods of communication, volunteer training, supplying leaders with GPS units on bushwalks, guidelines regarding use of equipment, and so on.
- Document, monitor and review – records should be kept of all incidences of harm and how they were dealt with. This is an important step in case of liability claims, and it also allows you to determine the effectiveness of the risk control plans and decide if changes are required for future activities.
It’s also important to check that campsite or other venue providers are fully insured – you should request a copy of their Certificate of Currency before proceeding.
To assist you in completing a church risk assessment for camps and / or excursions, we have provided a risk management form template which can be downloaded from the Forms section of this website.
More information on risk management for camps and excursions can be found at the Department of Education website, and copies of Adventure Activity Standards can be downloaded from Outdoors Victoria (please note that these are both Victorian sites and you may need to source information and guidelines from authorities within your own state).
For more information regarding risk management and insurance, please contact the CCI office.
Written by Tess OliverTags: children, health & safety, risk management