While I agree with Will Rogers in that “the only problem with Boy Scouts is, there aren’t enough of them,” I also know that the safety of those Scouts we do have in our programs is of utmost importance to me. Scouts and their parents expect all Boy Scouts of America activities to be conducted safely. To ensure the safety of participants, the BSA created the four points of SAFE Scouting for unit leaders to use when delivering the Scouting program. But Scouting safely isn’t only up to the unit leaders. We need everyone to be looking at activities and situations with a focus on safety. Do you know SAFE Scouting?
SUPERVISION. Youth are supervised by qualified and trustworthy adults who set the example for safety.
- Accepting responsibility for the well-being and safety of youth under their care.
- Ensuring that adults are adequately trained, experienced and skilled to lead the activity, including the ability to prevent and respond to likely problems and potential emergencies.
- Knowing and delivering the program of the Boy Scouts of America with integrity.
- Using qualified instructors, guides, or safety personnel as needed to provide additional guidance.
- Maintaining engagement with participants during activities to ensure compliance with established rules and procedures.
- And don’t forget, BSA policies require at least two youth-protection trained adults be present with youth at all times.
ASSESSMENT. Activities are assessed for risks during planning. Leaders have reviewed applicable program guidance or standards and have verified the activity is not prohibited. Risk avoidance or mitigation is incorporated into the activity.
- Predetermining what guidance and standards are typically applied to the activity, including those specific to the Boy Scouts of America program.
- Planning for safe travel to and from the activity site.
- Validating the activity is age appropriate for the Boy Scouts of America program level.
- Determining whether the unit has sufficient training, resources and experience to meet the identified standards, and if not, modifying the activity accordingly.
- Developing contingency plans for changes in weather and environment and arranging for communication with participants, parents, and emergency services.
FITNESS AND SKILL. Participants’ Annual Health and Medical Records are reviewed and leaders have confirmed that prerequisite fitness and skill levels exist for participants to take part safely.
- Confirming the activity is right for the age, maturity and physical abilities of participants.
- Considering at-risk factors temporary or chronic health conditions of participants.
- Validating minimum skill requirements identified during planning and ensuring participants stay within the limits of their abilities.
- Providing training to participants with limited skills and assessing their skills before they attempt more advanced skills.
EQUIPMENT AND ENVIRONMENT. Safe and appropriately sized equipment, courses, camps, campsites, trails, or playing fields are used properly. Leaders periodically check gear use and the environment for changing conditions that could affect safety.
- Confirming participants’ clothing is appropriate for expected temperatures, sun exposure, weather events and terrain.
- Providing equipment that is appropriately sized for participants, is in good repair and is used properly.
- Ensuring personal and group safety equipment is available, properly fitted and used consistently and in accordance with training.
- Reviewing the activity area for suitability during planning and immediately before use and monitoring the area during the activity through supervision.
- Adjusting the activity for changing conditions or ending it if safety cannot be maintained.
If we all adhere to practicing the four points of SAFE Scouting we can keep the “outing” in Scouting and continue to introduce our young people to the adventures only found in the outdoors.
- Guide to Safe Scouting (https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/)
- Age Appropriate Guidelines (https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-685.pdf)
- Youth Protection Training (https://www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection/)
- Safety Moments (https://www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/safety-moments/)