Prepare properly by undertaking a risk assessment.
Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis (AP)
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is an exercise that can help you identify and assess the threats and risks to you and your colleagues whilst working in hostile or dangerous environments, and helps you minimise these risks.
A risk assessment will help you to evaluate whether you are prepared, both physically, mentally, and practically to undertake a particular assignment.
When do I need to undertake a risk assessment?
RPT 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 can also be essential where dangers are sometimes less obvious or apparent.
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 and the risks involved.
How do I use this risk assessment?
Start working on a risk assessment from the beginning of your project, and integrate into your planning routine.
Risk assessments should be confidential: make sure it’s kept safe do not bring it with you when you leave.
Key security contact: if you are working alone, share and discus your risk assessment with someone you trust, who is not on location and who can act as your emergency coordinator. This person will need to be constantly available during the period that you are on assignment, so make sure they understand their role and what’s expected of them.
You can use a risk assessment to support your project when you are pitching it. Commissioning editors will appreciate you are taking risks seriously and in a professional way. Editors, lawyers and insurance brokers may require a risk assessment before commissioning a story or supporting a project.
Update your risk assessment while on assignment
It’s hard to predict every eventuality of a project, and so it’s important to re-evaluate and adapt your safety measures whilst on the ground. We encourage you to take some time each day to think about your safety: 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.