Risk Management

Bike Safety

The following guidelines and procedures apply to all BSA units, councils, and national program activities involving bicycling.

1. Qualified Supervision

All unit, district, council, and national event activities must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult at least age 21 who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the safety of children in his or her care, who is experienced with the skills and equipment involved in the activity, and who is committed to compliance with these BSA safety guidelines.

2. Physical Fitness

Biking is strenuous. Long treks and hill climbing should not be attempted without training and preparation. For Scouting activities, all participants must present evidence of fitness assured by a complete health history from a physician, parent, or legal guardian. The adult supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions. In the event of any significant health conditions, proof of an examination by a physician should be required by the adult leader.

3. Helmets and Clothing

All cyclists must wear a properly sized and fitted helmet approved by either the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. Layer your clothing for warmth on cool days so you can avoid chilling or overheating. Cover up for sun protection on clear days.

4. Buddy-Up

When the program activity is a bicycle expedition or trek, the buddy system must be used. When there is program activity emphasizing individual performance skills, one buddy observes while the other takes his turn. In competitive activity where the buddy concept cannot be practically applied, all activity must be directly observed by the adult supervisor. (Youth members should be taught that biking with a buddy is best. When biking alone, apart from Scouting activities, youth members should be encouraged to tell someone their route, schedule, and destination before departing.)

5. Keep Right

Ride with the traffic flow, as far to the right as possible. Avoid curbs, storm drains, soft or loose gravel on shoulders, and other hazards.

6. Be Smart

Obey all traffic laws, signs, signals, and street markings. Watch for changes in road conditions. Ride only one to a bike. Do not ride after dark. No stunts - trick riding is only for professionals who use special equipment. Yield to motor vehicles even if you think you have the right-of-way. Never hitch a ride on another vehicle. Keep your head and ears open and do not wear headphones while riding.

7. Turns and Intersections

Look left, right, back, and ahead before turning. Stop and search all directions when entering a street from a driveway, parking area, sidewalk, or an alley. Signal all turns using universal hand signals. Walk your bike through or across busy intersections.

8. Right Bike

Ride only a bike that fits you. Select a bike that permits you to put both feet on the ground while sitting on the seat. The handgrips should be no higher than your shoulder or lower than your seat.

9. Accessories

Every bike needs a horn or bell and reflectors (front, back, and sides). Items should be carried only in baskets, saddlebags, or on a rear carrier rack. If you must ride in traffic, a bike- or helmet-mounted mirror is recommended. For long trips, a bike-mounted container for drinking water is recommended.

10. Maintenance

Keep your bike clean and well-maintained - especially the brakes and drive chain.

11. Race Right

Open street racing is dangerous. Race only with supervision on marked courses that have been set up to exclude other vehicle or pedestrian traffic, to eliminate fall hazards and minimize collision risks, and to define clearly "start" and "finish" points.

12. Planning

Plan both the route and timing of bike trips to avoid heavy traffic and hazardous conditions. Biking is unsafe on wet pavement and on windy days. Plan for at least hourly rest stops and a maximum of approximately six hours on the bike per day.

13. Discipline

All participants should know, understand, and follow the rules and procedures for safe biking, and all participants should conscientiously and carefully follow all directions from the adult supervisor.

The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety

These 16 safety points, which embody good judgment and common sense, are applicable to all activities:

1. Qualified Supervision

Every BSA activity should be supervised by a conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children and youth in his or her care. The supervisor should be sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the activity to be confident of his or her ability to lead and teach the necessary skills and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency. Field knowledge of all applicable BSA standards and a commitment to implement and follow BSA policy and procedures are essential parts of the supervisor's qualifications.

2. Physical Fitness

For youth participants in any potentially strenuous activity, the supervisor should receive a complete health history from a health-care professional, parent, or guardian. Adult participants and youth involved in higher-risk activities (e.g., scuba diving) may have to undergo professional evaluation in addition to completing the health history. The supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate potential risks associated with individual health conditions. Neither youth nor adults should participate in activities for which they are unfit. To do so would place both the individual and others at risk.

3. Buddy System

The long history of the "buddy system" in Scouting has shown that it is always best to have at least one other person with you and aware at all times of your circumstances and what you are doing in any outdoor or strenuous activity.

4. Safe Area or Course

A key part of the supervisors' responsibility is to know the area or course for the activity and to determine that it is well-suited and free of hazards.

5. Equipment Selection and Maintenance

Most activity requires some specialized equipment. The equipment should be selected to suit the participants and the activity and to include appropriate safety and program features. The supervisor should also check equipment to determine whether it is in good condition for the activity and make sure it is kept properly maintained while in use.

6. Personal Safety Equipment

The supervisor must assure that every participant has and uses the appropriate personal safety equipment. For example, activity afloat requires that each participant properly wear a personal flotation device (PFD); bikers, horseback riders, and whitewater kayakers need helmets for certain activities; skaters need protective gear; and all need to be dressed for warmth and utility as the circumstances require.

7. Safety Procedures and Policies

For most activities, common-sense procedures and standards can greatly reduce any risk. These should be known and appreciated by all participants, and the supervisor must assure compliance.

8. Skill Level Limits

Every activity has a minimum skill level, and the supervisor must identify and recognize this level and be sure that participants are not put at risk by attempting any activity beyond their abilities. A good example of skill levels in Scouting is the swim test, which defines conditions for safe swimming on the basis of individual ability.

9. Weather Check

The risks of many outdoor activities vary substantially with weather conditions. Potential weather hazards and the appropriate responses should be understood and anticipated.

10. Planning

Safe activity follows a plan that has been conscientiously developed by the experienced supervisor or other competent source. Good planning minimizes risks and anticipates contingencies that may require an emergency response or a change of plan.

11. Communications

The supervisor needs to be able to communicate effectively with participants as needed during the activity. Emergency communications also need to be considered in advance for any foreseeable contingencies.

12. Permits and Notices

BSA tour permits, council office registration, government or landowner authorization, and any similar formalities are the supervisor's responsibility when such are required. Appropriate notification should be directed to parents, enforcement authorities, landowners, and others as needed, before and after the activity.

13. First-Aid Resources

The supervisor should determine what first-aid supplies to include among the activity equipment. The level of first-aid training and skill appropriate for the activity should also be considered. An extended trek over remote terrain obviously may require more first-aid resources and capabilities than an afternoon activity in a local community. Whatever is determined to be needed should be available.

14. Applicable Laws

BSA safety policies generally parallel or go beyond legal mandates, but the supervisor should confirm and assure compliance with all applicable regulations or statutes.

15. CPR Resource

Any strenuous activity or remote trek could present a cardiac emergency. Aquatic programs may involve cardiopulmonary emergencies. BSA strongly recommends that a person (preferably an adult) trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) be part of the leadership for any BSA program. This person should be available for strenuous outdoor activity.

16. Discipline

No supervisor is effective if he or she cannot control the activity and individual participants. Youth must respect their leaders and follow their directions.

Watch Out For Killer Fatigue

Attention Scout leaders! Be aware of "The Risk Zone."

"The Risk Zone" ­ a state of physical and mental fatigue- is a major cause of highway crash fatalities. Statistics indicate that 68 percent of fatigue-related accidents occur on trips that are longer than 500 miles one way or when the driver is away from home more than one night. Statistics also show that 74 percent of nighttime accidents (between 10 PM and 8 AM) are fatigue related.

Drivers are generally poor judges of their own level of fatigue and are unable to predict when they are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. And even if they don't fall asleep, drowsy drivers are not alert and therefore vulnerable to making mistakes and causing accidents because they cannot process critical information quickly or accurately.

Motor vehicle are the most dangerous form of transportation in the United States. A motor vehicle accident could happen anytime.

Plan ahead to reduce the fatigue factor-ensure safe passage through "The Risk Zone"

Take the Risk Zone Driver's Pledge:

  • I will not drive when I feel fatigued. I realize that when I am fatigued, I process information more slowly and less accurately and this impairs my ability to react in time to avoid accidents
  • I will arrange my schedule so that several days before a Scouting "driving trip," I will get a good night's sleep every night to avoid the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep.
  • I will make trip preparations far enough in advance so that last-minute preparations don't interfere with my rest.
  • I will make travel plans that take into account my personal biological clock and will drive only during the part of the day during which I know I will be alert.
  • I will be smart about engaging in physical activities during Scouting outings and will make sure that I will be ready to drive alertly.

Youth Protection

The Boy Scouts of America has adopted a number of policies aimed at eliminating opportunities for abuse within the Scouting program. These policies focus on leadership selection and on placing barriers to abuse within the program. These policies are primarily for the protection of our youth members; however, they also serve to protect our adult leaders from false accusations of abuse. Youth Protection Training is required for obtaining Tour Permits. This Youth Protection Training may be obtained online.

Two-deep leadership. Two registered adult leaders or one registered leader and a parent of a participant, one of whom must be 21 years of age or older, are required on all trips and outings.

No one-on-one contact. One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is not permitted. In situations that require personal conferences, such as a Scoutmaster's conference, the meeting is to be conducted in view of other adults and youths.

Respect of privacy. Adult leaders must respect the privacy of youth members in situations such as changing clothes and taking showers at camp, and intrude only to the extent that health and safety require. Adults must protect their own privacy in similar situations.

Separate accommodations. When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his own parent or guardian. Councils are strongly encouraged to have separate shower and latrine facilities for females. When separate facilities are not available, separate times for male and female use should be scheduled and posted for showers.

Proper preparation for high-adventure activities. Activities with elements of risk should never be undertaken without proper preparation, equipment, clothing, supervision, and safety measures.

No secret organizations. The BSA does not recognize any secret organizations as part of its program. All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders.

Appropriate attire. Proper clothing for activities is required. Skinny-dipping is not appropriate as part of Scouting.

Constructive discipline. Discipline used in Scouting should be constructive and reflect Scouting's values. Corporal punishment is never permitted.

Hazing prohibited. Physical hazing and initiations are prohibited and may not be included as part of any Scouting activity.

Junior leader training and supervision. Adult leaders must monitor and guide the leadership techniques used by junior leaders and ensure that BSA policies are followed.

"3 Rs" of Youth Protection?

The "three Rs" of Youth Protection convey a simple message that the BSA wants its youth members to learn:

Recognize situations that place him at risk of being molested, how child molesters operate, and that anyone could be a molester.

Resist unwanted and inappropriate attention. Resistance will stop most attempts at molestation.

Report attempted or actual molestation to a parent or other trusted adult. This prevents further abuse of himself and helps to protect other children. Let the Scout know he will not be blamed for what occurred.

Member Responsibilities

All members of the Boy Scouts of America are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law. Physical violence, hazing, bullying, theft, verbal insults, and drugs and alcohol have no place in the Scouting program and may result in the revocation of a Scout's membership in the unit.

Unit Responsibilities

Adult leaders of Scouting units are responsible for monitoring the behavior of youth members and interceding when necessary. Parents of youth members who misbehave should be informed and asked for assistance in dealing with it.
If problem behavior persists, units may revoke a Scout's membership in that unit. When a unit revokes a Scout's membership, it should promptly notify the council of the action.

The unit should inform the Scout executive about all incidents that result in a physical injury or involve allegations of sexual misconduct by a youth member with another youth member.

Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings

1. Two-deep leadership:

Two registered adult leaders, or one registered adult and a parent of a participating Scout, one of whom must be at least 21 years of age or older, are required for all trips or outings. There are a few instances, such as patrol activities, when no adult leadership is required. Coed overnight activities require male and female adult leaders, both of whom must be 21 years of age or older, and one of whom must be a registered member of the BSA.

2. During transportation to and from planned Scout outings,

a. Meet for departure at a designated area.
b. Prearrange a schedule for periodic checkpoint stops as a group.
c. Plan a daily destination point.

A common departure site and a daily destination point are a must. If you cannot provide two adults for each vehicle, the minimum required is one adult and two or more youth members - never one on one.

3. Safety rule of four:

No fewer than four individuals (with the minimum of two adults) go on any backcountry expedition or campout. If an accident occurs, one person stays with the injured, and two go for help. Additional adult leadership requirements must reflect an awareness the size and skill level of the group, anticipated environmental conditions, and degree of challenge.

4. Separate Sleeping Facilities for Leaders

Male and female leaders require separate sleeping facilities. Married couples may share the same quarters if appropriate facilities are available.

5. Separate Sleeping Facilities for Participants

Male and female youth participants will not share the same sleeping facility.

6. When staying in tents, no youth will stay in the tent of an adult other than his or her parent or guardian.

7. If separate shower and latrine facilities are not available, separate times for male and female use should be scheduled and posted for showers. The buddy system should be used for latrines by having one person wait outside the entrance, or provide Occupied and Unoccupied signs and/or inside door latches.

8. Two-deep adult leadership is required for flying activities. For basic orientation flights, the adult licensed pilot in control of the aircraft is sufficient for the flight while two-deep leadership is maintained on the ground.

Climb On Safely

Climb On Safely is the Boy Scouts of America's recommended procedure for organizing BSA climbing/rappelling activities at a natural site or a facility such as a climbing wall or tower.

Young people today seek greater challenges, and climbing and rappelling offer a worthy challenge. The satisfaction of safely climbing a rock face is hard to top. While introduction of the Climbing merit badge in spring 1997 spurred interest in these activities through the BSA, the proliferation of climbing gyms and facilities has also made climbing and rappelling readily available throughout the US.

This increased interest has made the BSA more aware of the inherent risks of climbing and rappelling. More accidents occur during unit rappelling than during council-managed climbing or rappelling, and more accidents have occurred during rappelling than climbing. Many climbing/rappelling accidents could be avoided by having qualified instruction from a conscientious adult who has the attention and respect of the youth entrusted to his or her care. Supervision by a caring adult who fully understands and appreciates the responsibility he or she assumes helps assure safety when youth engage in or prepare for climbing or rappelling.

The adult supervisor's relationship with youth should reinforce the importance of following instructions. The adult leader in charge and the climbing instructor share this responsibility. The instructor is responsible for all procedures and for safely conducting the climbing/rappelling activity. The adult supervisor works cooperatively with the climbing instructor and is responsible for all matters outside of the climbing/rappelling activity.

A capable instructor has experience in teaching climbing and rappelling to youth, acknowledges personal limitations, and exercises good judgment in a variety of circumstances. The person who spent four days of free-solo climbing on a sheer rock face may have technical skills but may lack teaching ability or the ability to empathize with youth who may be apprehensive about climbing.

Examples of sources of qualified climbing and rappelling instructors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • National Outdoor Leadership School
  • Wilderness Education Association
  • American Mountain Guides Association
  • The Mountaineers
  • Recreational Equipment Inc.
  • Eastern Mountain Sports
  • University or college climbing/rappelling instructors or students Project Adventure instructors

Leaders and instructors should also consult current literature on climbing and rappelling for additional guidance. Topping Out: A BSA Climbing/Rappelling Manual, No. 3207, is the most authoritative guide currently available from the BSA. [return to top]

& Safe Swim Defense

Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat have been developed to promote safe swimming and boating safety and to set standards for safe unit aquatics activities.

Before a BSA group may engage in swimming activities of any kind, a minimum of one adult leader must complete Safe Swim Defense training, have a commitment card (No. 34243) with them, and agree to use the eight defenses in this plan.

Before a BSA group may engage in an excursion, expedition, or trip on the water (canoe, raft, sailboat, motorboat, rowboat, tube, or other craft), adult leaders for such activity must complete Safety Afloat Training, No. 34159A, have a commitment card, No. 34242A, with them, and be dedicated to full compliance with all nine points of Safety Afloat.

One of the best opportunities for Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat training is at summer camp.

The classification of Swimming Ability is accomplished with the BSA Swimmer Test which is also performed at camp.

Pool and Surf Swimming

The Safe Swim Defense applies to swimming at the beach, private or public pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or anywhere Scouts swim. Here are some additional points for the pool and the surf.

Pool - If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others are using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard personnel, there may be no need for additional designation of Scout lifeguards and lookout.

The buddy system is critically important, however, even in a public pool. Remember, even in a crowd, you are alone without protection if no one is attentive to your circumstances.

The rule that people swim only in water suited to their ability and with others of similar ability applies in a pool environment. Most public pools divide shallow and deep water, and this may be sufficient for defining appropriate swimming areas. If not, the supervisor should clearly indicate to the participating Scouts the appropriate areas of the public facility. Although such procedures add a margin of safety, their use may not always be practical when the swim activity is conducted at a public facility where non-Scouts are present. A responsible adult supervisor, who understands his or her responsibility and the elements of safety, can exercise discretion regarding certain procedures while maintaining safety.

Surf - The surf swimming environment of wave action, currents, tides, undertow, runouts, and sea pests like stinging jellyfish requires precautions for safe swimming that aren't necessary in other environments. A swimmer's physical condition is very important and should enable the swimmer to recover footing in waves, swim vigorously for at least five minutes without becoming exhausted, and remain calm and in control when faced with unexpected conditions.

Designated swimming areas are marked by flags or pennants that are easily seen. Beginners and nonswimmers are positioned inshore from the standing lifeguards equipped with reach poles. Better swimmers are permitted seaward of the lifeguard but must remain shoreward of anchored marker buoys. The lifeguard to swimmer ratio should always be 1 to 10, with a rescue team stationed at the beach area and supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo buoy. [return to top]

The Gray Areas

Make Scouting Fun, Not Offensive
By Douglas C. Fullman, Northeast Region, Boy Scouts of America

Scouting's program is designed to develop boys in character, citizenship, and fitness including mental, moral, spiritual, and physical fitness. Activities, meetings, camp programs, and campfires all contribute to Scouting's aims. Therefore, some items that may be acceptable in other segments of society are not part of the Scouting program.

One of the important elements of Scouting is FUN. In our attempt to use humor and fun activities, we must continually remind ourselves that these amusing and entertaining programs are excellent opportunities to teach the values of Scouting, and must not detract from, nor contradict the philosophy expressed in the Scout Oath and Law.

Although many leaders are able to determine the appropriateness of most program choices, there are certainly numerous songs, stories, skits, and stunts that force the leader to make decisions. To add to the complexity of the decision is that in many cases it is not so much what is done, but how it is done that makes the difference. The areas that fall between the inappropriate and the absolutely acceptable, we call the gray area.

Just because a skit, song, or story falls in one of the gray area categories does not, in itself, establish that it may not be done. At the same time, if an item is in the gray area, then a leader must exercise his judgment concerning not only the subject matter, but also the performers and their sensitivity to the values and ideals of Scouting. The final decision must be the impact the item has on developing character, fitness, and citizenship or setting the wrong example of what Scouting is all about.

The following "Gray Areas" should alert leaders to exercise their best judgment:

1. Underwear

  • Concerns: Nudity, natural modesty of Scouts, mental fitness, and cleanliness.
  • Judgment Note: The J. C. Penney Skit can be done in Swimsuits as an example.

2. Water

  • Concerns:
    • Victims (self-worth and self-esteem)
    • Persons may be hurt physically and emotionally. Equipment/clothing damaged.
    • Bodily Functions - Skits, etc., portraying urination, sexual acts, or defecation do not contribute to developing Scouting's Ideals and Values.

3. Toilet Paper

  • Concerns: Bodily Functions (see above) and Toilet Humor.
  • Judgment Note: "The Viper is Coming" can have a person with Paper Towels and Windex to clean someone else's eyeglasses.

4. Inside Jokes

  • Concerns: Only the participants or those in the "KNOW" can appreciate the humor, etc. Don't bore, or even worse, ignore the rest of us in the audience.
  • Judgment Note: Staff Banquets, and Last Wills and Testaments, are great uses of inside jokes and most, if not all, of the participants are "in."

5. Alcohol/Drunkenness

  • Concerns:
    • BSA's Unacceptables - Alcohol is the most abused drug especially within the age group Scouting is trying to serve.
    • Drunkenness - Making fun of people. Courtesy. Self-esteem and self-worth.

6. Cross Gender Impersonation

  • Concerns:
    • Bodily Functions and excessive, inappropriate exaggeration of body parts.
    • Embarrassments.
    • May become a form of sexual harassment.
  • Judgment Note: Can be great fun. Area that most probably fits into the "not what is done, but how it's done" category.

This guide has been prepared with the sincere desire for wholesome fun, recreation, and enjoyment for all at Scouting activities, especially campfires. Hopefully, you the leader, A find these guidelines helpful as you thoughtfully approve these activities, guide boys in making the right decisions, and personally set the example for Scouting at its best.

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