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Conservation Field Safety Expeditions > News > Uncategorized > Mitigating Risks in Wilderness Environments: Risk Assessments and the Duty of Care (Part 1)
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  • Posted by: CFSE Team

In today’s world, risk management plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals and organizations. This is particularly true in wilderness environments, where nature’s unpredictability and potential dangers require proactive measures to mitigate risks. In this blog, we will delve into the definitions of different types of risk assessments, what it means to have a “duty of care” and how these concepts effect insurance policies.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a systematic process of identifying, analyzing, and evaluating potential risks or hazards that may arise in a specific situation, activity, or project. Its purpose is to assess the likelihood and potential impact of these risks on the organization, individuals, or assets involved.

The risk assessment process typically involves several steps:

1. Hazard Identification: Identifying and listing potential risks or hazards that could occur. This can involve considering various factors such as physical, chemical, environmental, or operational aspects.

2. Risk Analysis: Assessing the likelihood or probability of each identified risk occurring and evaluating its potential consequences. This step often involves gathering data, conducting research, and using expert judgment to determine the level of risk associated with each hazard.

3. Risk Evaluation: Comparing the estimated risks against predetermined risk criteria or standards to determine their significance. This involves prioritizing risks based on their severity and the organization’s tolerance for those risks.

4. Risk Mitigation: Developing and implementing strategies or measures to reduce or eliminate the identified risks. This may involve implementing safety protocols, making process changes, providing training, using protective equipment, or implementing other control measures.

5. Risk Monitoring and Review: Regularly reviewing and reassessing risks to ensure that mitigation measures are effective and identifying any new risks that may arise. Ongoing monitoring helps maintain awareness of potential risks and allows for adjustments to be made as needed.

Risk assessments are conducted in various domains, including occupational health and safety, project management, information security, finance, and environmental management. They are essential for organizations to make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and take proactive measures to prevent or mitigate potential risks.

Who conducts a risk assessment?

A risk assessment can be conducted by various individuals or groups depending on the context and purpose of the assessment. Here are some common examples:

1. Risk Assessment Professionals: In large organizations or industries with specific risk management departments, dedicated risk assessment professionals or teams may be responsible for conducting risk assessments. These individuals have expertise in risk assessment methodologies and tools and often work closely with other stakeholders.

2. Health and Safety Officers: In the realm of occupational health and safety, trained health and safety officers are typically responsible for conducting risk assessments within a workplace. They assess potential hazards, evaluate risks, and make recommendations for implementing control measures to ensure the safety of employees.

3. Project Managers: In project management, project managers or project teams often conduct risk assessments as part of the project planning process. They identify potential risks that could impact project objectives, evaluate their likelihood and impact, and develop risk mitigation strategies.

4. Security Professionals: In the field of information security, cybersecurity professionals conduct risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats to the organization’s information systems. They assess the likelihood and potential impact of security breaches and develop measures to protect against them.

5. Environmental Consultants: Environmental consultants may be engaged to conduct risk assessments related to environmental impacts and compliance. They evaluate potential risks to the environment, such as pollution, habitat destruction, or hazardous material releases, and suggest measures to mitigate those risks.

It’s important to note that while specific individuals or groups may conduct risk assessments, the process often involves collaboration and consultation with relevant stakeholders. This ensures a comprehensive and accurate assessment that takes into account different perspectives and expertise.

What is a Dynamic Risk Assessment?

A dynamic risk assessment (DRA), also known as real-time risk assessment or on-the-spot risk assessment, is a continuous and ongoing process of assessing risks as they evolve in a changing situation or environment. Unlike a traditional risk assessment, which is typically conducted prior to the start of an activity or project, a dynamic risk assessment focuses on assessing risks in real-time during the course of an activity.

The main purpose of a dynamic risk assessment is to identify and respond to immediate and emerging risks that may not have been anticipated or included in the initial risk assessment. It involves constantly monitoring the situation, identifying hazards or risks as they arise, and taking appropriate actions to mitigate or control those risks.

Key characteristics of a dynamic risk assessment include:

1. Situational Awareness: Maintaining a high level of awareness and understanding of the current situation, including changes in the environment, conditions, or activities taking place.

2. Rapid Risk Identification: Quickly identifying new hazards or risks that may arise during the activity or project and assessing their potential impact on safety or objectives.

3. Decision Making: Making informed decisions based on the current risk assessment to modify plans, adjust actions, or implement additional control measures in response to identified risks.

4. Communication: Effectively communicating risk information and changes in risk status to relevant individuals or teams involved in the activity, enabling them to take appropriate actions.

Dynamic risk assessments are commonly used in high-risk industries or activities such as emergency response, construction, transportation, and hazardous material handling. They provide a proactive approach to managing risks in situations where conditions can change rapidly, allowing for immediate adaptation and response to ensure safety and minimize potential harm.

What is “duty of care”?

Duty of care is a legal obligation that requires individuals or organizations to take reasonable measures to prevent harm or injury to others who could reasonably be foreseen as being at risk. It is a fundamental principle in tort law, which governs civil wrongs and provides a legal basis for compensation in cases of negligence.

The concept of duty of care is based on the idea that people have a responsibility to act in a way that does not cause harm to others. This duty exists in various relationships and contexts, including:

1. Professional Relationships: Professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and financial advisors, have a duty of care towards their clients or patients. They are expected to provide services with a certain standard of care and expertise to avoid causing harm or injury.

2. Employer-Employee Relationships: Employers have a duty of care towards their employees to provide a safe and healthy work environment. This includes implementing safety policies, providing training, and taking necessary precautions to minimize risks and hazards.

3. Public Safety: Public authorities, such as government agencies or local municipalities, have a duty of care to ensure the safety and well-being of the public. This may include maintaining public infrastructure, enforcing regulations, and responding to emergencies.

4. Premises Liability: Property owners or occupiers have a duty of care to ensure that their premises are safe for visitors or guests. They must take reasonable steps to prevent hazards or dangers that could cause harm, such as maintaining walkways, addressing structural issues, or providing warnings about potential risks.

To establish a breach of duty of care, the following elements are typically considered:

1. Foreseeability: It must be reasonably foreseeable that a person’s actions or omissions could cause harm to others.

2. Standard of Care: The standard of care expected of the individual or organization is evaluated based on what a reasonable person or a professional in a similar situation would do.

3. Causation: There must be a direct link between the breach of duty of care and the harm or injury suffered by the affected party.

If a breach of duty of care is proven, the affected party may be entitled to seek compensation for damages, including medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

It’s important to note that the specifics of duty of care can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the particular circumstances of each case. Legal advice from a qualified professional should be sought for specific situations or concerns.

Do risk assessments go to insurers?

Risk assessments can be shared with insurers, especially in commercial and business settings. Insurers often request risk assessments as part of their underwriting process to evaluate the level of risk associated with insuring a particular individual, organization, or project. By reviewing the risk assessment, insurers can assess the likelihood and potential severity of risks, which helps them determine appropriate insurance coverage and premiums.

Sharing risk assessments with insurers can have several benefits, including:

1. Insurance Coverage: Insurers use risk assessments to understand the risks involved and determine the extent of coverage needed. They may tailor insurance policies to address specific risks identified in the assessment.

2. Premium Calculation: Risk assessments provide insurers with valuable information to assess the level of risk and calculate appropriate premiums. If a risk assessment demonstrates effective risk management measures, it may lead to lower premiums.

3. Risk Mitigation Recommendations: Insurers may provide recommendations based on the risk assessment findings to help mitigate identified risks. Implementing these recommendations can not only improve risk management but also potentially result in better insurance terms.

4. Claims Handling: In the event of a claim, insurers may refer to the risk assessment to assess the circumstances surrounding the incident. This helps determine coverage applicability and can influence the claims handling process.

However, it’s important to note that sharing a risk assessment with an insurer is a voluntary process. Depending on the situation, an individual or organization may choose not to disclose certain risk assessment details or share them with other parties involved in risk management and decision-making. It’s advisable to consult with an insurance professional or risk management specialist to understand the specific requirements and processes related to sharing risk assessments with insurers.


For every field project that involves a group or individuals, there should be a thorough risk assessment. This allows the people involved with the project and their organization or university department leaders to take the appropriate steps to ensure that methods are conducted as safely as possible. Students, technicians, or other labour workers must be aware of potential hazards. Whether the members of a field team read the risk assessment depends on regulations and policies of the organization. In many places, it’s required for employers to conduct a risk assessment and have employees read and understand those risks. When in doubt, ask your employer or project leaders about these policies and enquire about the information pertaining to the risk assessment based on your situation. There are many aspects of wilderness-based work that are out of our control. That does not mean we can’t prepare for different scenarios. To not do so is negligence and, ultimately, it will be those field team members and their families who are most affected by the consequences.

Author: CFSE Team

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