Guide to Safe Scouting

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Guide to Safe Scouting

First edition:
Latest edition:2017
PDF version (May 2017)
HTML version
Paper version
BSA Supply Number:34416



All participants in official Scouting activities should become familiar with the Guide to Safe Scouting and applicable program literature or manuals, and be aware of state or local government regulations that supersede Boy Scouts of America practices, policies, and guidelines. The Guide to Safe Scouting is an overview of Scouting policies and procedures gleaned from a variety of sources. For some items, the policy statements are complete. For others, unit leaders are expected to review the additional reference material cited prior to conducting such activities.

In situations not specifically covered in this guide, activity planners should evaluate the risk or potential risk of harm, and respond with action plans based on common sense, community standards, the Boy Scout motto, and safety policies and practices commonly prescribed for the activity by experienced providers and practitioners. Perhaps this quote by Sir Robert Baden-Powell from his 1914 book Quick Training for War is appropriate to include here:

“... The books lay down definite principles and examples which serve to guide the leaders when applying their common sense to the situation before them. No two situations are ever precisely the same, and it is therefore impossible to lay down exact rules that should guide in every case, but a man who carries precedents and principles in his head has no difficulty in applying their teaching in supreme moments of sudden emergency ...”

— Guide to Safe Scouting (2017)

Viewing the online Guide

The Guide to Safe Scouting is available in the following formats:

  • On-line reading — this version is divided into chapters and includes a search engine.
  • Download for off-line reading Adobe Acrobat PDF:the entire publication is presented in a single interface to facilitate print-out.
  • A printed version is also available at your local Scout shop, or from


I. Youth Protection & Adult Leadership 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.
II. Aquatics Safety Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat training can be given by any person authorized by the council, including a BSA Aquatics resource person, a unit leader with aquatics skill, or any other person with aquatics knowledge or experience whom the local council has approved.
III. Camping Guidelines for Safe Camping, Trail Safety, Hazardous Weather, Health issues and other camping related issues.
IV. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs The Boy Scouts of America prohibits the use of alcoholic beverages and controlled substances at encampments or activities on property owned and/or operated by the Boy Scouts of America, or at any activity involving participation of youth members.
V. Medical Information and First Aid It is recommended that all members of the Boy Scouts of America have periodic medical evaluations by a licensed health-care practitioner. First aid is the first help or immediate care given someone who has suddenly sickened or been hurt in an accident. First-aid training continues through the program of the Boy Scouts of America as concrete evidence that we are prepared to help others in need.
VI. Chemical Fuels and Equipment Guidelines for Safely Using Chemical Fuels and Fire Prevention.
VII. Guns and Firearms The Boy Scouts of America adheres to its longstanding policy of teaching its youth and adult members the safe, responsible, intelligent handling, care, and use of firearms, airguns, and BB guns in planned, carefully managed, and supervised programs.
VIII. Sports and Activities The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety
IX. Insurance
X. Transportation Established public carriers—trains, buses, and commercial airlines—are the safest and most comfortable way for groups to travel. Chartered buses usually are the most economical transportation for groups of 20 or more.
XI. Winter Activities There is magic to camping in winter. It is one of the most advanced and challenging of outdoor adventures
XII. Animal and Insect Hazards
XIII. Incident Reporting


Scouting $$$ Pay Liability Claims

The BSA general liability program is not just insurance. In fact, insurance plays a very small part. Our greatest efforts are spent on safety and injury prevention.

BSA self-funds the first million dollars of each liability claim. This means that almost all money spent on a liability claim is Scouting money, not insurance money.

Accident and sickness insurance pays regardless of fault as long as the accident occurred during an official Scouting activity and the unit or council has purchased the coverage.

The BSA Ready & Prepared Award

The BSA Ready & Prepared Award encourages and rewards Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews that incorporate safe practices while enjoying challenging activities. While working to earn the award, units emphasize risk management as a way to help reduce fatalities and serious injury.

Related awards

Aquatic-related awards
Emergency Preparedness-related awards
Outdoor-related awards

See also

G2SS Revision History

2017 Updates

Updated throughout to remove references to tour and activity plan.
VIII. Sports and Activities The entire chapter was updated and a Canyoneering section was added.
IX. Insurance Updated the Coverage for Non-Owned Boats Used in Scouting Activities and the Accident and Sickness Coverage sections.
Appendix Updated the Motor Vehicle and Driver, Flying Plan, and Campout Safety checklists.

2011 Updates

In the past, the Guide to Safe Scouting has been a unit leader’s guide for activities. This new version addresses other activities at the council and district levels. While some of the literature provides guidance for district and council activities, the primary focus is for unit leaders conducting unit activities.
Guide to Safe Scouting (2011)
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