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What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is one part of a larger approach to the management of the real and perceived risks of an organisation, an activity or a project. In this situation we are not focusing on the larger risk management planning that may be in place for all activities and programs or for the organisation; our focus is on only those that are relevant to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the resumption of an activity, active recreation or the operations of a sporting organisation.

Previous work carried out through annual/scheduled risk management processes will be valuable references and starting points for identifying an organisation’s position on the likelihood, consequences, treatment and control of risks. It is also important to note that the likelihood of some risks and their associated consequences may be difficult to define, so it is important to take a balanced approach based on the best information available to you (for example, the likelihood of the transmission of a virus through the running of soccer drills with participants being 1.5m apart).

There are two main types of risk that are relevant for this process. Safety/health risks are associated with physical injury or illness that may affect the participant, coach or official while participating in the activity, training, games, etc. Not all safety and health risks need to be considered as they may be covered in the usual risk management practices. This stage should focus on those risks that are relevant to the resumption of activities/operations in the current environment. For example, the risk of tripping over something in the club rooms is still the same, however, the risk of injury to members or the community returning to training/games/activities after being inactive for six months may be unique to this current environment.

The risk assessment should also consider organisational risks. These may include a reduction in membership, access to places and spaces, collection of a proportion of the usual fees, or impacts on the organisation/activity’s brand. Again, the assessment should be focused on the risks that are unique to or heightened by the current environment.


A risk assessment will:

  • develop a common understanding of risks associated with the organisation, activity, sport or program
  • identify potential risks associated with the organisation, activity, sport or program
  • lessen the chances of something going wrong
  • provide a checklist for consideration in the development of the recovery plan.

How is the risk assessment completed?

The process is very similar to the usual risk management process, however, as we will experience a number of different scenarios, controls and treatments are best considered at a later stage. General controls and treatments can be mentioned in the assessment but not dealt with in detail.

Use the standard approach/tables that have been used for normal operations and activities. If you do not currently have these in place, you may be able to ask a neighbouring club, seek advice from other track/trail land managers, research other similar activities or ask your State or national sporting associations. Information is also available on the internet but, where possible, you should focus on trusted sources, for example Sport Australia.

Having access to the previous impact assessment may help set the context of the current risk assessment and provide a summary of the impacted areas. It is also reasonable to base decisions on a general summary of your stakeholders, participants and clubs etc. It will be difficult to progress any assessment or actions if you need one for every type of person that may use the trail or participate in the sport.

Although the current environment may not lend itself to an extensive consultation process, it is important to involve a number of people from different levels within the organisation, for example, the President, CEO, operational staff, key volunteers, players and stakeholders.

Preparation of the risk assessment

There are a number of very good guides and templates available for organisations, programs and activities. In general, they all cover the following process.:

  1. establish the context
  2. identify the risks
  3. analyse the risks
  4. evaluate the risks
  5. treat the risks — remember that this stage will be developed in greater detail during the development of the recovery plan.

Rather than recreate these, they are provided as links so you can pick the most appropriate one for the size and type of your organisation, program or activity.

Related pages

Page reviewed 11 September 2023