Dynamic Risk-Benefit Assessment

Children’s outdoor play is unpredictable. It is impossible to be sure how play sessions will unfold and impossible to plan for every scenario. That is why a key part of your overall approach to risk management during play sessions is how you respond to the unexpected!

This is called dynamic risk management. As with anticipated risks, the aim is to take a balanced and thoughtful approach, though as children play we may need to make decisions quickly! 

A Dynamic RBA is not about following a pre-set decision-making process or documentation. It’s about entering a space, seeing the hazards and potential risks and responding with decisions that mitigate those risks. Each scenario — an interaction between the site and the kinds of play emerging — is unique and requires a unique response. 

Here’s an example of when a Dynamic RBA would be needed:

A group enters a playspace that has a newly fallen tree. An educator may ask the children to sit together while they assess the surrounding trees that might have been knocked, to ensure none are leaning or broken. The educator might also assess the climbability of the fallen tree. They may return to the children to share what they saw, “I noticed the branches are strong and spaced out. I also noticed the ground was flat and not too hard if we fall. But when you get to the end it doesn’t feel strong enough anymore!” 

They might co-create safety guidelines with the children for exploring that tree: “I wonder how far we should climb? Where should we stop? How will we know when to slow down or ask for help?” Children might offer their suggestions. Through this process an educator and children are aligned in how the play might unfold, and how they’ll navigate the challenges together. 

This process emphasizes the importance of professional competence and confidence. Your decisions during your Dynamic RBA are based on your experience, your learning and your organization’s values and Standards of Care. 

Reflective Sharing Prompt: Consider a time you entered a playspace on the land with children, conducted a Dynamic RBA and made decisions to manage that risk.  How did you recognize the hazards? How did you manage the risks?

Dynamic Risk Assessment