Risk assessment

File ZSL London Zoo general visit risk assessment (40.68 KB)

PDF icon ZSL Whipsnade Zoo general visit risk assessment (228.7 KB)

Like all zoos and wildlife parks, we have to operate under the auspices of the Zoo Licensing Act. We are subject to an annual inspection by enforcing officers, who look at the way we take care of our animals and the safety of visitors and staff. The license has to be renewed every six years.

ZSL takes health and safety very seriously and expects people in charge of children to act responsibly.

It is strongly recommended that all teachers make a pre-visit and carry out their own risk assessment before undertaking an outing with children – one free ticket per class is available on request when booking a visit. Last entry to the Zoo is one hour before the Zoo closes, so please check the current Zoo opening times before planning your pre-visit. In the event that a pre-visit is impossible, this document provides a general outline of risks and controls identified.

It is essential that children are supervised throughout their visit:

  • 1 adult for every 6 pupils (primary)
  • 1 adult for every 10 pupils (secondary)

These ratios satisfy the levels of supervision recommended by DfES Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits 1998. Pupils up to the end of year 11 MUST be supervised at all times. Where children have severe special needs and a carer is essential, the admission of the carer may be admitted free.

It is essential that the children understand the aims and objectives of the visit, what standard of behaviour is expected and who is responsible for the group. Pupils should understand how to avoid specific dangers, why they should follow rules and why safety precautions are in place. Also they should know what to do if approached by anyone from outside the group and what to do if separated from the group (DfES Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits 1998.)
It is essential that the accompanying adults understand:

  • the itinerary, timings and objective of the visit
  • that they are responsible for the behaviour of the children in their charge

Zoo Rules:

  • DO NOT distress the animals by shouting, leaping about, tapping on the glass
  • DO NOT feed the animals
  • DO NOT climb over barriers

N.B. ZSL reserves the right to evict any group that breaks these rules, or that allows children to harass another school group/general visitors.

For a copy of our Public Liability Insurance Policy please see the resources section at the bottom of this page.

Hazard, risks and controls

Hazard and risk: Dangerous animals - risk of being bitten


  • Warning signs on enclosures
  • Safety barriers in place
  • Feeding of animals is prohibited

Hazard and risk: Contact with animals, animal artefacts and exhibits - risk of disease contraction or accidental injury

  • Hand-cleansing facilities available in Animal Adventure, Clore Rainforest and Education Centre (ZSL London Zoo)
  • Hand-cleansing facilities provided in Children’s Farm and In With The Lemurs (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)
  • Water in Splash Zone play area is chlorinated (ZSL London Zoo)
  • Warning and advisory signs displayed
  • Feeding the animals is prohibited
  • Supervision by volunteers at touch table sites and staff in Education Centre
  • If soap is unavailable in dispenser please make a member of ZSL staff aware, and find another available facility.

Hazard and risk: Deep water around paddocks and in ponds. Water in fountains and canal (ZSL London Zoo). Animal Adventure Splash Zone (ZSL London Zoo). Sealion Splash Zone (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo) - risk of falling in water and drowning


  • Vegetation and fixed metal/wooden barriers
  • Danger Deep Water sign
  • Life belts at Penguin beach and Gorilla Kingdom enclosures, and at canal site (ZSL London Zoo).
  • Life belts at chimp, cheetah, Asian rhino and sealion enclosure and lakes (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)
  • Non slip surface in Animal Adventure Splash Zone (ZSL London Zoo).

Hazard and risk: Darkness in the Night Zone - risk of injury from collisions and tripping (ZSL London Zoo only)

  • Go slowly to adjust eyes to light level signage
  • Low level lighting
  • Hand rails

Hazard and risk: Climbing on railings, fencing, walls, seating, raised garden areas, pillars, trees, posts, rocks and sculptures - risk of injury from falling


  • Safety notice on trees, railings, fence etc. where relevant

Hazard and risk: Electric fencing around some enclosures - risk of injury from electric shock


  • Electric fence warning signs
  • ‘Danger – Keep out ‘ signs

Hazard and risk: Coin operated animal rides - risk of injury from falling


  • Safety notice stating children must be supervised

Hazard and risk: Zoo vehicles - risk of being hit by Zoo vehicle (both zoos) or privately owned vehicle (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)


  • Site speed limit 5mph (ZSL London Zoo). 10mph speed limit (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)
  • Staff driving vehicles on-site are competent and trained.

Hazard and risk: General public - child welfare risk


  • Lost Children's Post based at the Clock Tower (ZSL London Zoo), Estates Office (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo). First Aid Posts also at both of these locations.
  • Staff trained in procedures in dealing with lost children
  • Children should be supervised at all times.

Hazard and risk: Swings, climbing frames and bouncy castle in children's play areas - risk of injury from falling


  • Waterpour Safety Surface BS EN 1176 (ZSL London Zoo).
  • Bark chips (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)
  • Supervision notices displayed
  • At London Zoo play equipment is for children ages between 3 and 11 years. At ZSL Whipsnade Zoo play equipment is for children 3 – 15 years.
  • Supervision in accordance with the recommended ratio is an expectation.

Hazard and risk: Crossing the road from the coach park to the Zoo entrance


  • Subway from coach park under road to entrance (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo)
  • Pedestrian crossings and lights (ZSL London Zoo)

Hazard and risks: Free roaming animals – risk of bites and scratches (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo only)


  • Information notice boards about not feeding, touching, chasing animals

Hazard and risk: Animals being walked round the site

* Trained keepers leading the animal walks
* Animals walked calmly and quietly
* Animals trained and constantly monitored by staff

Hazard and risk: Train – Jumbo express – risk of accidental injury (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo only)


  • Supervision in accordance with the recommended ratio is an expectation
  • Rules for riding the train will be stated before the ride by staff (e.g. must remain seated throughout the journey, hands must be kept inside the carriage).
  • The track can be crossed at 3 points: a pedestrian bridge with hand rails, level crossing with warning lights and a staff level crossing with gates. Do not cross the track at any other point.

Hazard and risk: Emergencies e.g. fire, bomb threat, dangerous animal escape


  • Enclosures are designed to be secure and safe
  • Protocols are in place for emergency situations. Trained staff will deal with the emergency situation and advise visitors what to do
  • Listen to directions from ZSL staff or tannoy announcements.


Good resources for educational visits can be found on the HSE School Trips pages .

We would also suggest using the DfES good practice guide PDF icon “Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits” (HASPEV) (1.91 MB) and supplements which provide the main source of guidance for leaders and helpers in connection with adventure activities and for educational visits.

With the additional requests from schools for information on our Public Liability Insurance Policy we have placed a letter here, to be viewed, which includes a description of our Public Liability Insurance.

PDF icon Public Liability Document 2016 (117.52 KB)