With all the best intentions, injuries can and do happen when running circus classes, and when these do, they open up the possibility of legal action against both the coach and the circus school or club. In the unfortunate event this happens to you, you may find yourself in a situation where you are required to prove that you have done everything you can to mitigate a potential accident.

This is where having detailed documentation of your safe processes will come in handy. In fact, you may have already been asked by an insurer, or perhaps an event that you’ve been staging circus workshops for to submit a risk management document. More and more it is becoming common for circus coaches or organisations to need to provide these.

Two of the most common documents that you may be asked for are a Risk Assessment (RA) and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

If you are running a school employing more than a couple of coaches, it’s also worth putting together a document covering your coaches teaching policies (also useful from a team management point of view). All of these, together with  your schools curriculum, will show that you have thought through the risks in running circus activities and taken steps to mitigate them.

So what is a Risk Assessment and a SWMS?

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is essentially a careful examination of what could hurt people in the process of your job or task. A risk assessment does 3 main things:

  1. Identifies hazards in your workplace
  2. Describes how someone may get hurt as a result of the hazards, and if this is acceptable
  3. Defines what control measures you need to put in place to reduce these risks

Sometimes the risk assessment will also re-assess the level of risk after the control measures are put in place.

Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)

Although a SWMS is typically used by the construction industry, it’s becoming more common to use these in other industries and can be very useful in describing a circus class. A SWMS is slightly different to a risk assessment as it is more task based.

A SWMS covers the following:

  1. Details the activities that you will undertake in the process of carrying out your job – in the order that they will happen
  2. Identifies the hazard involved with each activity
  3. Identifies what the risks could result in
  4. Describes how the risks will be controlled, and how the control measures will be put into place.

Here is an example of how you may use a SWMS to describe the tumbling component in your circus class:


Landing heavily / poorly
Skill too difficult for the student
Inappropriate matting

Potential Risks
Ankle injury
Shoulder injury
Falling injury

Control Methods
Use the correct matting
Ensure proper drills have been practiced
Only teach skills suitable for the students ability 

You can also get SWMS templates from your state or territories worksafe body. Here’s one from the Victorian worksafe website.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve implemented and updated your risk analysis documents recently, or if you are in the process of putting together your first ones. Add a comment below and share your thoughts.

Stay safe, and happy circussing!