Guiding Principles - Risk Control

Assess risks and develop safety plans for individual sites

Every organisation or individual property owner should set out their approach to visitor safety. This should include an overall management framework and procedures for carrying out individual site assessments. It should contain an overview of accident data and consider what levels of risk are acceptable. What constitutes a ‘site’ will vary between organisations, and there will often be a hierarchy of safety plans. A canal, a country park, or a forest could each have its own safety plan. Within them, an individual lock, a car park, or a picnic area could need a specific risk assessment and a safety plan.

Risk control measures should be consistent

Consistency is important within a particular location; from site to site within a regional or national organisation; and between different organisations. Ideally, the visitor should know what to expect at any location. Inconsistencies in the application of risk controls (for example the absence or presence of fencing at similar cliff edges and watersides) make it very difficult for visitors to make informed judgements about accepting risk. Note that consistency is not the same as uniformity. Design solutions should be allowed to reflect the individual character of each site.

Risk control measures should take account of wider benefits to society

Benefits, such as those arising from participation in educational, leisure and recreation activities, conservation of habitats, species, landscape and heritage, should be considered as part of the decision making process. You must take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of visitors. When you have done this there may well come a point where the cost and consequences of introducing further control measures would be grossly disproportionate to the likely safety gains. As far as possible avoid using risk control measures that spoil people’s experience.

Monitor the behaviour and experiences of visitors to review visitor safety plans

Learn from experience of incidents and near misses. Add questions about accidents to visitor surveys. Have systems in place for accident reporting and investigation, and for letting others know what lessons you have learned. Monitor changes in the number and type of visitor to ensure risk controls remain valid.

Make sure that your work activities do not expose visitors to risk

On occasion, this may require access to be diverted or denied, for example, when repairing erosion of upland paths, repairing a structure on a historic site, or during commercial harvesting of timber.

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