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Water Events

An Introduction to Maritime Risk Assessments

This section of the Water Events Diary aims to point organisers of recreational events on the waters of the Dockyard Port towards identifying what risks may be associated with their event and acts as a catalyst to how they address them. Any organised activity on the waters of the Dockyard Port - MOD, commercial or recreational -has some risk associated with it. The organisers of the activity own the risks, but they are also carried by the statutory harbour authority, QHM. The organisers of recreational events are required to identify their risks and, by using safety management, make them tolerable so that the participants may safely enjoy their recreational activity, also assuring the safety of others who are not participating. QHM needs to know that the imported risks above background levels do not have an untenable consequential impact and do not compromise the safety of the port.

The process is nothing new and many event organisers already undertake risk assessments and implement safety management systems – although they may not formally identify their processes as such. The terms risk assessment and safety management can intimidate, but in reality they are part of our every day lives. Organised lower risk events happen afloat every day – the diary section of the WED lists many; most of these are covered by the process of the Water Events Checkoff List – itself a risk assessment and safety management tool, some events demand that a more rigorous approach be taken.

As indicated above, the aim of a risk assessment is to identify hazards, then define and eradicate the risks that have to be managed. Hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm, while Risk is a combination of frequency of occurrence and consequence (outcome). In simple terms, a risk assessment looks at:

  • What can go wrong? -Hazard identification
  • How often? -Frequency estimation
  • How bad will it be? -Consequence analysis
  • So What? -Risk assessment
  • What can I do about it? -Risk management

Plans and procedures for an event will be informed by a formal assessment of hazards and risks - a safety management system will be developed. The aim of a safety management system is to ensure that all risks are tolerable and as low as reasonably practicable, and should deal with preparedness for emergencies. While all of this is being done, it is recognised that people participate in recreational events for enjoyment, and their aims and aspirations are important. Safe enjoyment is a balanced perspective.

Established events will be reviewed to assess if a formal risk assessment is required, and organisers will be informed if such a requirement exists. Individuals or organisations that are contemplating a waterborne event for which there is no in port pedigree are encouraged to contact DQHM (01752 836485 ) to discuss their proposals. Guidance, and a more comprehensive guide to Risk Assessments, will then be made available to facilitate the delivery of a safe event.

Failure to submit an acceptable risk assessment and safety plan may lead to a qualifying event proposed within the Dockyard Port of Plymouth being refused by QHM.