Completing the risk assessment
Since June 2020, Ramblers require us to complete a risk assessment before every walk, both as a matter of good practice and for insurance purposes. (Initially this was specifically focussed on managing Covid-19 risks, but the latest version is more general.) You can download the template for this as either a PDF or Word doc from Assemble (the Ramblers volunteer site) once you’re registered as a walk leader.
This is not intended to be an onerous process, but a quick tool to help you think about the potential risks and hazards on your planned walk, how you can minimise them and make sure it’s safe to go ahead. It’s largely a checklist allowing you to think whether each of the points is likely to apply to your walk.
- Tick the boxes that are relevant (where the risk may apply and you have taken, or plan to take, the stated action). You are not expected to tick every box! You might wish to add brief notes on some of the risks (e.g. a particularly busy road crossing, or a poor-quality path that means people need to be warned not to wear trainers).
- If a risk applies but you plan to manage it in some other way that’s not mentioned on the template, write this in. (An example might be if you plan to have people wearing high-vis clothing on a busy road section.)
- If you’re aware of a risk that’s not mentioned on the template, write it in yourself. (Examples might be crossing a golf course or walking through a military range.)
This is not something you’re expected to take a lot of time over, however – if it takes you more than 5–10 minutes then you’re almost certainly overthinking it.
It’s a good idea to prepare the risk assessment shortly after the recce, when anything you noticed is fresh in your mind. You can always update it later if any additional points arise (for example if you need to take action due to a storm, heatwave or other event that develops).
The final version should be emailed to the Walks Coordinator before the walk takes place.
Occasionally it is necessary to postpone or cancel a walk for unforeseen reasons (e.g. walk leader illness, severe weather or transport disruption). However, we try to keep such occasions to a minimum to avoid disappointment and give people confidence that the walks on our programme will go ahead. In particular, we don’t normally cancel for “normal” bad weather conditions like rain, only those which might make the walk or travelling to/from it unsafe (an amber warning from the Met Office being the usual threshold).
Please understand therefore that in submitting a walk you are making a firm commitment to actually lead it on the day, unless genuinely unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances prevent it. In the case of walk leader illness, family emergency etc., it may be possible for someone else to step in to lead, or in case of a train strike or engineering works it may be possible to substitute a different route (either by the same or a different leader).
If any reason arises which means that you may be unable to lead your walk, please discuss this with the Walks Coordinator as far ahead as possible. Last-minute cancellations on the day should only be made in exceptional circumstances, and please inform the Walks Coordinator or another committee member immediately if this is necessary (e.g. due to sudden illness, vehicle breakdown or cancelled train services).
In the event of less severe transport disruption, it’s usual simply to delay the start of the walk to wait for the services on which people were expected to to travel (or the next service if these are cancelled or a connection is missed). If the delay is substantial, please inform the Walks Coordinator so that the website and Meetup listings can be updated.