Event organisers are required to hold a current policy of insurance in respect of Public Liability (and products liability where appropriate). It is advised that this should not be less than £5 million (per incident or series of related incidents).


How to carry out a risk assessment

Whatever their size, all events require a risk assessment. As event organiser, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone involved in your event. 

A risk assessment is a way of identifying hazards and considering what measures need to be put in place to control them. It is entirely your responsibility to carry out a risk assessment, using the specific facts and circumstances of your event, but please remember your local Scottish Canals; events co-ordinator will be happy to help with any queries.

Useful definitions

Hazard - something with the potential to cause harm. 

Risk – this is made up of two factors, likelihood and severity of effect. How likely is the hazard to cause harm and how severe would the effect of this harm be? 

There are different measures of likelihood and effect. An example for measuring likelihood would be: 

  • unlikely 
  • likely
  • very likely 

An example for measuring severity of effect would be: 

  • first aid case 
  • major injury
  • fatality 

You can then work out if the risk is low, medium or high, for example: 

  • unlikely + first aid case = low risk
  • likely + first aid case = medium risk 
  • very likely + major injury = high risk

Carrying out a risk assessment

1. It is recommended that you visit the proposed event site before carrying out your risk assessment. Take note of any Scottish Canals’ information or warning signs. You may also find it useful to contact the event co-ordinator on the canal where the event is being held. 

2. Divide the whole event into sections by types of activity  

For each type of activity consider: 

3. The hazards associated with this part of the event / day. You might consider: 

  • slips, trips and falls
  • carrying/manual handling
  • moving parts of machinery
  • chemicals including dust or fume
  • fire hazard
  • weather conditions
  • vehicles on site
  • car parking
  • crowd control
  • electrical appliances
  • high noise levels
  • poor light
  • poor heating
  • poor ventilation 


Top Tip! Hazards in a canal environment could include:

  • water’s edge
  • fast flowing water
  • contact with waterborne agents i.e. Leptospirosis
  • proximity of deep water
  • proximity of shallow water 


4. Who could be at risk from each hazard? Remember that this might not always be people. For example, groups you might include are:

  • stewards
  • employees
  • volunteers
  • contractors
  • exhibitors
  • vendors
  • performers
  • the public
  • children
  • elderly
  • locals
  • people with disabilities
  • other canal users
  • livestock
  • horses 


 5. Consider the level of that risk – High / Medium / Low 

 6. Consider any actions or measures required to reduce the risk as much as possible.  

Consider your arrangements or site lay out, and aim to remove the hazard; or prevent access to the hazard; or restrict access; reduce exposure to the hazard; or find a safer substitute.  

Mention any suitable training or instruction and compliance with relevant legislation. Codes of good practice and British Standards are useful here.  

Does the activity need to be monitored by event marshals? Do participants need to bring anything with them to the event? Personal protective equipment (PPE) may be necessary.  

Do you need to make additional arrangements? Consider:

  • first aid
  • shelter - gazebo/tents
  • toilets
  • throw lines for water rescue
  • refreshments
  • high visibility jackets for marshals
  • fire safety
  • cash handling
  • security
  • access to and from the water/canal
  • litter removal
  • shelter - gazebo/tents
  • signs
  • communication between marshals and organise 


7. You can now identify which items to include in the briefings for marshals and participants. You can also identify who is responsible for the action at the event. 

8. Reassess the level of risk – High / Medium / Low 

9. If the risk is still not acceptable, return to step 6. If you cannot reduce a hazard to an acceptable risk, you must decide whether the activity concerned should go ahead. 

You can download a blank risk assessment form to fill in for your event, or view an example assessment. Please remember - the risks associated with each event are specific to that occasion, so you must carry out your own assessment.  

All contractors invited to the event should also carry out their own risk assessment and method statement specific to their activities at your event (for example, they must consider the event location and expected participants). They should provide you with a copy of these documents, which should be attached to your risk assessment.


Download a blank risk assessment form to fill in for your event and a sample risk assessment below