IX. Sports and Activities

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 also 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.

Caving

General Policy

Caving can be a hazardous activity when the proper equipment, skills, and judgment are not used. Trips that are led by adults inexperienced in caving and trips containing large numbers of persons compound the hazards already inherent in the activity and create a potentially dangerous situation.

  1. All caving, other than simple novice activities, should be limited to adults and young people 14 and older—members of Venturing crews and older Scouts in troops, and teams. "Simple novice activities" means commercially operated cave excursions and easy caves.
  2. Units (teams, troops, crews) that include cave visits in their program, whether for one trip or many, must adhere to the two-deep leadership policy of the Boy Scouts of America (two registered adult leaders, or one adult and a parent of a youth member, one of whom must be 21 or older). These leaders must be responsible, mature adults who are constantly present with the group. One cave trip leader must be highly qualified through caving experience and must be thoroughly versed in all established safety practices, conservation measures, and courtesy to cave owners.
  3. In conformity with the BSA policy on the use of wilderness areas, all caving groups should be limited to 8 to 10 persons and two-deep leadership as required by the Boy Scouts of America for all trips or outings. Caving activities for larger groups should not be conducted. Each group should be organized to function independently, i.e., plan its own trips on different dates, provide its own transportation and food, and function as a separate and distinct group. The only exception to these rules may be trips to certain commercial caves where special provisions are made to furnish proper supervision by professional guides.
    Note: Caving trips have been incorporated in the BSA "Policy on Use of Wilderness Areas by Personnel of the BSA," with a cross reference to these guidelines. Copies of the wilderness area policy statement are available from High Adventure Programs, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, Texas 75015-2079.
  4. Any Venturing crew wishing to learn about cave rescue work or pursue that activity as a specialty must do so under the sponsorship and supervision of an adult cave rescue group affiliated with the National Speleological Society.
  5. All Scout groups are required to have an approved tour permit for trips of all kinds. Cave activities are included under that plan. National tour permits are required for a trip of 500 miles or more; local permits are issued to cover shorter trips.
  6. The leaders and the individual members of the group must understand these basic practices and policies of caving, which are approved by the Boy Scouts of America and the National Speleological Society. In addition to understanding these tenets, every participant in a caving trip must agree, without reservation, to follow all of the specific guidelines contained in BSA's Caving publication, No. 19-102A.
  7. Cave Safety

  8. Any cave trip must include a fully qualified leader or adult assistants qualified to handle all problems that might arise. These leaders should have had experience as active participants in a competent caving group. They must realistically evaluate their own knowledge and experience and must never attempt to lead their group into a situation that is beyond their capability or the capability of any member of the group. The overall capability and pace of a caving group is always that of the least able member of that group, and no member of the group should ever be encouraged or permitted to attempt a potentially dangerous act that is beyond their ability solely because the remainder of the group has the necessary ability.
  9. All basic equipment such as clothing, shoes, lights, and spare parts for the lights, hard hats, and food should be appropriate for the cave being explored. It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that all equipment is adequate and in good condition.
  10. Except for groups composed entirely of experienced cavers, the cave to be explored must not require the use of ropes, ladders, or other climbing devices. The safe use of these aids requires extensive initial training and practice under controlled conditions above ground, never in a cave.
  11. Natural and fabricated hazards such as mud slopes, loose rocks, pits, deep water, complex routes, old ropes, wooden ladders, and the possibility of flooding are all dangers to some degree and must be approached with care and judgment. If it appears that an accident may still occur in spite of preventive measures, that area must be avoided entirely.
  12. The strength, endurance, and specific abilities of every member of the group must be evaluated in advance and nothing attempted that exceeds anyone's limitations. Climbing, crawling, and route finding are not necessarily inborn skills, and should be taught and tested before a cave trip is undertaken.
  13. Not only the leaders, but every person on a cave trip should be aware of the necessity to constantly observe the whereabouts and potential problems of other members of the group and be ready to provide any assistance necessary.
  14. Running, jumping, horseplay, and solo exploration must be prohibited—such foolhardy actions jeopardize not only the individual but also the entire group.
  15. Caves are often cold and damp, and hypothermia is a danger, especially on long trips or trips requiring wading or crawling in water. Try to dress for conditions to be met, stay as dry as possible. Leave the cave immediately if any member of the group shows signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, or loss of coordination.
  16. Specific information about the caving trip must be left with a responsible person back home at time of departure. This should include location and length of time of trip, expected time of return, list of participants, and whom to contact for each trip member in case of emergency.
  17. A record of every cave trip will provide valuable assistance to new leaders and cavers alike. Full records of all caving accidents will provide the basis for a guide to the development of a safe caving program. A complete report of any accident, regardless of severity, should be sent to the Safety Committee of the National Speleological Society, Cave Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35810. Serious accidents should also be reported to the director of Health and Safety Service of the Boy Scouts of America.

Resource: Caving, No. 19-102A

Judo, Tai Chi, and Aikido

If Scouts and Venturers practice defensive judo, Tai Chi, or aikido, it should be done with proper mats and with qualified instructors related to YMCAs, colleges, or athletic clubs whose objectives and coaching methods are compatible with the principles of the Boy Scouts of America.

Climbing and Rappelling

1. Qualified Supervision
All climbing and rappelling must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult at least 21 years of age who understands the risks inherent to these activities. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained in and committed to compliance with the eight points of the Boy Scouts of America's Climb On Safely procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18 years of age must also accompany the unit. Units with more than 10 youths in the same climbing/rappelling session must have an additional adult leader at least 18 years of age for each 10 additional youth participants. In other words, a group of 11 to 20 youths requires at least three adult leaders; a group of 21 to 30 youths would require four adult leaders, and so on.
The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is currently trained in American Red Cross Standard First Aid and CPR (a 61/2-hour course). In addition, the two-hour module "First Aid—When Help Is Delayed" is recommended. A course of equivalent length and content from another nationally recognized organization can be substituted. A higher level of certification such as emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and licensed health-care practitioner is also acceptable. The ARC's Emergency Response, a 431/2-hour course that includes CPR, is highly recommended.
2. Qualified Instructors
A qualified rock climbing instructor who is at least 21 years of age must supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. A currently trained BSA climbing director or instructor is highly recommended. Contact your local council or regional service center to locate a qualified individual. The climbing instructor has successfully completed a minimum of 10 hours of instructor training for climbing/rappelling from a nationally or regionally recognized organization, a climbing school, a college-level climbing/rappelling course, or is a qualified BSA climbing instructor.
The BSA offers a section of National Camping School for climbing directors who in turn can train climbing instructors. Every instructor must have prior experiences in teaching climbing/rappelling to youth and must agree to adhere to Climb On Safely and the guidelines set in Topping Out.
Note: Any adult Scouter who successfully completes training in Climb On Safely is entitled to wear the temporary patch, No. 8631. A Climb On Safely Training Outline, No. 20-101, is available from your local council service center.
3. Physical Fitness
Require evidence of fitness for the climbing/rappelling activity with at least a current BSA Personal Health and Medical Record—Class 1, No. 34414A. The adult supervisor should adapt all supervision, discipline, and precautions to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions. If a significant health condition is present, an examination by a licensed health-care practitioner should be required by the adult supervisor before permitting participation in climbing or rappelling. The adult supervisor should inform the climbing instructor about each participant's medical conditions.
4. Safe Area
All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an established climbing/rappelling site or facility, including a portable or commercial facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be identified in advance.
5. Equipment
The climbing instructor should verify that the proper equipment is available for the size and ability level of participants. Helmets, rope, and climbing hardware must be approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme), CE (European Community Norm), or meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. All equipment must be acquired new or furnished by the instructor.
An approved climbing helmet must be worn during all BSA climbing/rappelling activities when the participant's feet are more than shoulder height above ground level. When using a commercial climbing gym, the climbing facility's procedures apply.
6. Planning
When planning, remember the following:
It is suggested that at least one of the adult leaders has an electronic means of communication in case of an emergency.
Before any activity, an adult leader should develop and share an emergency plan that includes the location of a nearby medical facility and the means of communicating with parents during the outing.
7. Environmental Conditions
The instructor, each adult leader, and each participant assumes responsibility for monitoring potentially dangerous environmental conditions that may include loose, crumbly rock; poisonous plants; wildlife; and inclement weather. Use the buddy system to monitor concerns such as dehydration, hypothermia, and an unusually high degree of fear or apprehension. The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the group leaves no trace of its presence at the site. See the Principles of Leave No Trace, No. 21-105.
8. Discipline
Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures for safely climbing and rappelling and has been oriented in Climb On Safely and Leave No Trace. All BSA members should respect and follow all instructions and rules of the climbing instructor. The applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed for all participants before climbing or rappelling begins. When participants know the reasons for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. The climbing instructor must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.

Project COPE Activities

Project COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) low and high course elements are intended to be used in conjunction with a council activity that meets the current Project COPE National Standards, No. 20-172. Units may participate in age-appropriate initiative games, but under no circumstances should attempt to construct low- or high-course elements.

Unauthorized and Restricted Activities

The following activities have been declared unauthorized and restricted by the Boy Scouts of America:

Carbon Tetrachloride

Carbon tetrachloride must never be used in any way in the Scouting program. Even in small quantities, this poison has proved to be so deadly that it must be ruled out as a cleaning fluid, a fire extinguisher, a poison for insect killing, and a watermark detector for stamp collecting.

Knives

A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.

Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.

References: Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Bear Cub Scout Book, and Wolf Cub Scout Book

Rope Monkey Bridges

When constructing monkey bridges, observe the following safety rules:

  1. Always follow the steps for constructing monkey bridges outlined in the Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.
  2. Before beginning the project, inspect your rope, looking at both the inside fibers and inner strands. Know the size and strength of the type of rope you are using, and its safe working load.
  3. Monkey bridges should not be constructed higher than 5 feet above flat-surfaced ground nor longer than 40 feet. Initially, beginners should not span more than 25 feet.
  4. Know the effect the knots will have in reducing rope strength and the proper care that rope requires.
  5. Rope, especially rope carrying a load, should be checked each day before using. Rope carrying a load and left in place tends to become slack from fatigue and will break under stress. Tighten rope as necessary to maintain the integrity of the original construction.
  6. Exercise special care when members of the public are allowed to use these monkey bridges. Establish controls when monkey bridges are constructed outside the camp environment. Station Scouts at each end to control access to the bridge. Allow only one adult at a time on the bridge. Never allow unaccompanied children on the bridge. Shut down the bridge when any repairs are being made and do not reopen until the adult leader has approved the repairs.
  7. Any activity on rope swings, monkey bridges, slide-for-life, or similar devices that are located over water must comply with Safe Swim Defense.
  8. Reference: Pioneering merit badge pamphlet

Parade Floats and Hayrides

The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:

  1. Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
  2. Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
  3. Legs should not hang over the side.
  4. Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.

Unit Fund-raisers

Include these safety considerations when planning a unit fund-raiser:

  1. Money-earning projects should be suited to the ages and abilities of youth participants.
  2. Proper adult supervision should be provided.
  3. Youth should engage in money-earning projects only in neighborhoods that are safe and familiar and should use the buddy system.
  4. Leaders must train youth members to never enter the home of a stranger and to know whom to contact in case of an emergency.
  5. Youth participants should be familiar with safe pedestrian practices and participate during daylight hours only.
  6. Compliance requirements:
    1. Check local statutes regarding solicitation rules and permits.
    2. A Unit Fund-raising Permit must be obtained from the local council service center.

Tractor Safety

  1. All farm-class tractors used by BSA members or employees in conjunction with any BSA activity or on BSA property must be equipped with seat belts and rollover protection (rollbars, reinforced cab, or equivalent protection). If the tractor does not have this equipment, refer to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for interim compliance requirements. As of January 1, 1993, the use of any farm-class tractor not equipped with seat belts and rollover protection is unauthorized.
  2. No BSA member or employee may operate a farm-class tractor in conjunction with any BSA activity or on BSA property unless such member or employee is at least 18 years of age and has completed BSA National Camping School ranger certification, or has been specifically trained in operations and safety procedures for tractors and their attached implements by a currently certified ranger, and is directly supervised by a currently certified ranger.

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.

Skating Guidelines

Skateboarding and roller-skating (including in-line skating) present safety concerns, primarily risks of falls and collisions. Recent data show that injuries are largely the results of collisions—especially with moving vehicles. These guidelines emphasize prevention, and are meant to cover all BSA skating programs. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers should always practice safety and courtesy and obey all local or rink rules.

  1. BSA skating at any level shall be supervised by an adult at least 21 years of age, experienced in the use of skates and skateboards, willing to conscientiously accept responsibility for the safety of all participants, and committed to compliance with BSA safety guidelines and local laws.
  2. In-line skating, hockey, racing, or similar activities are to be held only in areas free of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and hazardous fixed objects. No skating activity is authorized on streets that have not been blocked off to traffic.
  3. Pathways and skating surfaces must be free of defects or features unsuited to skating. Evaluation of the area by the supervisor should precede any BSA activities.
  4. Before permitting equipment to be used in a BSA activity, the supervisor should determine that all skates and skateboards are well maintained and in good repair consistent with the manufacturer's recommendations. Actual maintenance and repair are the responsibility of the owner.
  5. For all street or pavement skating activities, participants should wear properly fitted helmets that meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards; padded gloves; wrist supports; and elbow and knee pads. No street or pavement skating is authorized without helmets.
  6. Skaters must NEVER "hitch a ride" on any vehicle.
  7. Parents or legal guardians must be informed and must consent to youth participation in a BSA skating activity.
  8. The adult supervisor must be sure that all participants understand and agree that skating is allowed only with proper supervision and in compliance with the safety guidelines. Youth members should respect and follow all directions and rules of the adult supervisor. When people know the reasons for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. Supervisors should be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.

Horsemanship Activities

Horsemanship activities in Scouting include merit badge activities, arena rides, multi-day trips (including treks and cavalcades), and Cub Scouting familiarization rides.

Each sponsoring council should take care to design age- and activity-appropriate procedures and guidelines for each particular equine activity. It is not possible or appropriate to dictate each aspect of every program.

Requirements must also be met if the horseback riding program is provided by or at an off-site facility. The council must enter a contractual agreement as outlined in the resident camp standards.

Horseback riding activities are limited to Wolf Cub Scouts and older members.


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