Excursion risk management

This page includes the process for identifying and dealing with student and staff health and safety risks during an excursion

Important points:

  • This process is best undertaken collaboratively so that different perspectives are brought to bear on the process
  • This process should be applied to all elements of the proposed excursion – not just to the scheduled adventure activities
  • Ideally all staff supervising the excursion should be actively managing risk before, during and after the excursion. Including ALL supervising staff (for example, where practical, including volunteers, specialist instructors, etc) in this process can help to achieve this
  • This process (as outlined below) is consistent with the Department’s Risk Management Framework which is based on the International Organisation for Standardisation’s ISO31000: 2009 Risk management – Principles and guidelines.

The following process should include the staff leading the excursion, the staff supervising the excursion and must include people with experience and expertise in the activities being offered and knowledge of the proposed excursion or activity. Some ‘outsiders’ should also be included in the process.

It is valuable to set aside a period of time, well in advance of the excursion (a couple of hours as a minimum), for the group to move through this process. This allows time to reflect on the results before the excursion commences.

This process must be documented and templates are provided for this purpose. The final documentation from steps 2 to 6 forms the excursion risk management plan required for submission to the principal.

The templates on this site provide one method of documenting this risk management process. You may choose to use other templates that you find are effective.

Identifying and dealing with excursion risks

This table sets out the process your group will need to undertake for identifying and dealing with the health and safety risks of an excursion.

Step DescriptionSupport Materials


Establish the context

Explore the scope of the activity – review excursion documentation

Each group member is to become thoroughly familiar with the proposed excursion.

Working collaboratively, complete and/or read all documents relevant to the planning and approval of the excursion (see: Support materials column).

The group should consider the following questions:

  • Why are you planning this excursion?
  • What are your educational objectives for the excursion?
  • Where; when; how; why; are you going?
  • Who are you going there with?
  • What roles and responsibilities will there be?
  • Why are you going with this specific group?
  • Where are you staying?
  • When are you coming back?
  • What are you are going do when you get there?
  • Will any additional expertise be needed?

The group should conduct research to answer these questions including:

  • Examining the support materials
  • Reviewing previous similar activities/excursion documentation.

If travelling overseas see:


Risk identification

Stage 1

In your group, brainstorm and document potential excursion health and safety risks (explore the whole excursion i.e. not just the adventure activity).

Record ALL identified excursion safety risks in the risk register template.

To help identify the potential risks:

  • ask ‘What if….’ Questions
  • use the planning questions
  • refer to the sample risks for relevant adventure activities
  • consider the risks of not proceeding with the activity.

For each risk, include any existing policy, procedure, practice or device that acts to minimise that risk. i.e. list existing controls for each risk.

Stage 2

In this stage you are identifying those risks that you want to analyse further. Consider how effective the existing controls are.

From the list generated by the group create an agreed shortlist of 12-20 key risks of the excursion or activity. If there are multiple activities or other complicating factors a larger list of risks may be required.

Many of the risks identified in the initial brainstorm will be addressed as part of your planning or as a matter of policy, consequently these risks can be considered to have controls in place which largely mitigate those risks.

Example: Coach transport to an urban centre would present different risks to transporting students in a mini-bus being driven by a teacher to the Victorian Alps in winter. As a result they would be planned for differently.In this example the risks inherent in coach transport are addressed through policies detailed in the School Policy and Advisory Guide and may not require a closer look. The risks involved in the mini-bus transport are likely to require further examination.​


Risk Analysis

Using the Risk Register template document (refer to example 1, see Support materials column) and the Risk analysis tools:

  • assess the consequences of the shortlisted risks (taking into account any existing controls that would be in place) using the Department's consequences criteria 
  • assess the likelihood of the shortlisted risks using the Department's likelihood criteria
  • determine the rating of the risk using the Department's risk rating matrix.​


Risk Evaluation

  • If risks are ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ NOT proceeding with the activity should be immediately considered.
  • Medium’ risks should be treated to ensure they are as low as possible and should be frequently reviewed. Permanent actions to reduce the risk should be considered.
  • ‘Low’ risks are acceptable but should be periodically reviewed.​

Acceptability Chart in the Risk analysis tools (doc - 78.5kb)


Risk Treatment

Start by reassessing the existing controls in place to see if they can be improved.

Risk treatments can involve:

  • Avoiding the risk
  • Removing the risk source
  • Changing the risk likelihood
  • Changing the risk consequences
  • Sharing the risk with another party (e.g. outsourcing or insurance)
  • Retaining the risk by informed decision

For all risks requiring further treatment, include in your risk register documentation:

  • What will be done?
  • Who is accountable?
  • When will it happen?​


Monitor & Review

Re-assess the consequences and likelihood and rating of the risks with the documented controls and treatments in place:

  • If any risks remain ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ after treatment the activity should NOT be proceeded with.
  • ‘Medium’ risks should be treated to ensure they are as low as possible and should be frequently reviewed. Permanent actions to reduce the risk should be considered.
  • ‘Low’ risks are acceptable but should be periodically reviewed.

The completed risk register becomes the risk management plan for the excursion that should be submitted with your completed documentation (see: support materials column).

Leaders must ensure the risks, controls and treatments during the excursion are continuously monitored and:

  • where practical, the risk register should be updated to reflect any changes
  • monitor whether the context of the excursion has changed (for example, changes to weather, to fire danger ratings, or political unrest if travelling overseas)
  • monitor whether activities should be cancelled, delayed or modified.

Note: the risks, controls and treatments should be evaluated after the excursion has occurred, even if there have been no documented incidents.​


​Communication & Consultation

Leaders should communicate the risk management process to all staff on the excursion and ensure staff are aware of significant changes.

The final approval for the excursion must go to the principal using the Principal approval form with the risk management plan attached.

Principal approval form (docx - 71.31kb)

For further detail about the standard risk management process and the steps outlined above see: Introduction to Risk Management (staff access only).

More information

For further information about:

Guide references

The following references are available from Outdoors Victoria, see: Outdoors Victoria - Risk Management​

The Crux of Risk Management in Outdoor Programs
Rob Hogan, Australian Journal of Outdoor Education Vol.6 No.2, 2002 - this paper advocates that minimising the risk of death and disabling injuries should be the number one outcome of any risk management plan or strategy in outdoor programs. 

Unaccompanied Activities in Outdoor Activities
Grant Davidson, New Zealand Journal of Outdoor Education. Vol.1 No.4, December, 2004 - this paper argues that unaccompanied activities can pose significant risks and the removal of supervision is not justified. 


Cline, P. (2005) Organisational Crisis Response, Adventure Incorporated.

Deb Ajango (Ed.) (2005) Lessons Learned II: Using case studies and history to improve safety education.

Dickson, T.J. & Tugwell, M. (2000) The Risk Management Document, Outdoor Recreation Industry Council.

Haddock, C. (2004) Risk Management for Outdoor Leaders, New Zealand Mountain Safety Council.

Powers, P. (1993) Wilderness Mountaineering, NOLS / Stackpole Books.

Priest, S & Gass, M.A. (2005) Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming 2nd Edition, Human Kinetics.