About risk assessments.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is an exercise that can help you identify and assess the range of threats and risks to you, your colleagues and contributors whilst working in hostile or dangerous environments and, in turn, can help you minimise any dangers.
Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis (AP)
When do I need to undertake a risk assessment?
The Rory Peck Trust encourages all freelancers to undertake a risk assessment before beginning any assignment. It’s not only relevant for conflict or crime zones – a risk assessment is also essential where dangers are sometimes less obvious or apparent, whether the location or story is familiar to you or not.
The global COVID pandemic has brought a range of additional risks for journalists reporting on all stories, not just the virus, that need serious attention in considering physical, psychological and digital elements of risk assessments. Review considerations for reporting during the pandemic to help with this.
Consider carefully why you are undertaking the assignment: do you need to go? Do you want to go? The time to ask yourself “why am I doing this?” is before you set off, not when you are in the middle of an unfolding crisis. Your reasons may be clear in your head, but writing them down can help you focus on the motivations behind a project, as well as on the risks involved.
How do I use a risk assessment?
Start working on a risk assessment from the beginning of your project and integrate it into your planning routine. Treat it as a friend and companion throughout your assignment, not just to keep you and your team safe, but also as a useful checklist to ensure you have thought about and prepared for all practical and editorial requirements of a project.
You can also use a risk assessment to support your project when you are pitching it. Commissioning editors will appreciate that you understand the risks and take them seriously. Some editors, lawyers and insurance brokers may require a risk assessment before commissioning a story or supporting a project.
Risk assessments should be confidential: make sure it’s kept safe and do not bring it with you when you leave.
Key security contact: share and discuss your risk assessment with someone you trust who is not on location with you and can act as your emergency coordinator – this is particularly important if you are working alone. This person will need to be available during the whole period that you are on assignment, so make sure they understand their role and what’s expected of them.
Update your risk assessment while on assignment
It’s hard to predict every eventuality of a project, so it’s important to keep your risk assessment dynamic and constantly re-evaluate and adapt your safety and security measures while on the ground. We encourage you to take some time each day to think about safety and security: what precautions should you take that you didn’t foresee? Do you have to change your travel/accommodation/filming plans?
Trust your instincts, but also plan in advance how you will be able to update the safety information you have and make sure you can communicate any changes securely to your relevant contacts.
A risk assessment will help to evaluate whether you are prepared – physically, mentally, and practically – to undertake a particular assignment.