Guide to Safe Scouting

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Guide to Safe Scouting

First edition:
Latest edition:May 2018
PDF version
HTML version
Paper version (December 2015)
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 (2018)

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 (December 2015) is also available at your local Scout shop, or from


The Table of Contents for the May 2018 version of the guide is listed below along with links to the online (HTML) version of the guide.

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 Topics: Resource Material, Aquatics Leadership Training Programs, Responsibilities of Supervisory Personnel, Safe Swim Defense, BSA Aquatics Play Structure Policy, Classification of Swimming Ability, Distance and Competitive Swimming in Open Water, Snorkeling in Open Water, BSA Scuba Policy, Safety Afloat, Tow Sports
III. Camping Topics: Age Guidelines, Family Camping, Cub Scout Overnight Opportunities, Scouts BSA Camping, Venturing Camping, Sea Scout Camping, Trek Safely, and Lightning Risk Reduction.
IV. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use and Abuse 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 Topics: Personal Health and the Annual Health and Medical Record, Medication Use in Scouting, Immunizations, Local Council Membership/Participation Guidelines Regarding Life-Threatening Protection Consideration for Blood and Bodily Fluids (Universal Precautions) Communicable Diseases, and First Aid and CPR Training
VI. Chemical Fuels and Equipment Guidelines for how to safely store, handle, and use chemical fuels and equipment.
VII. Activity Planning and Risk Assessment Topics: Policy Regarding Prohibited and Unauthorized Activities, Unauthorized and Restricted Activities, Activity Planning and Risk Assessment, and the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety.
VIII. Sports and Activities Topics: Shooting Sports, Caving, Canyoneering, Climbing and Rappelling, Project COPE Activities, Slacklining, Knives, Parade Floats and Hayrides, Unit Fund-raisers, Bike Safety, Skating Safety, and Horsemanship Activities.
IX. Insurance Topics: Comprehensive General Liability Insurance, Automobile Liability Insurance, Chartered Organizations for Scouting Units, Accident and Sickness Coverage, Coverage for Non-Owned Boats Used in Scouting Activities, and Unauthorized and Restricted Activities.
X. Transportation Topics: Automobiles, SUVs, and Vans, Campers, Trailers, and Trucks, Buses, Commercial Driver’s License Compliance, and For-Hire Motor Carriers of Passengers (Charter Buses).
XI. Winter Activities Topics: Winter Camping Safety and Winter Sports Safety.
XII. Animal and Insect Hazards Topics: Hantavirus, Rabies Prevention, Lyme Disease, and Mosquito-Borne Illnesses.
XIII. Incident Reporting Incident Reviews.
Appendix Includes: Motor Vehicle and Driver Checklist, Meeting Place Inspection Checklist, Flying Plan Checklist, Unit Money-Earning Application, Incident Reporting Tool, Near Miss Reporting Tool, Youth Protection/Membership Infraction Incident Information Form, Service Project Planning Guidelines, Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations, Campout Safety Checklist, and Event Safety Checklist.

G2SS Revision History

2018 Updates

I. Youth Protection and Adult Leadership Revised Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse.
II. Aquatics Safety Revised the BSA Aquatics Play Structure Policy and Classification of Swimming Ability sections.
III. Camping Updated all of the camping content and deleted the Treating Drinking Water section.
V. Medical Information and First Aid Deleted Protection Consideration for Blood and Bodily Fluids (Universal Precautions) section.
VII. Activity Planning and Risk Assessment Moved the Activity Planning and Risk Assessment, The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety, and the Unauthorized and Restricted Activities sections that were in the Shooting Sports chapter to this chapter and renamed it.
VIII. Sports and Activities Moved the content of the Shooting Sports chapter to sections within this chapter, and moved the Activity Planning and Risk Assessment, The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety, and the Unauthorized and Restricted Activities sections to a new chapter: VII. Activity Planning and Risk Assessment.
XIII. Incident Reporting Updated chapter.
Appendix Added the Incident Reporting Tool and Near Miss Reporting Tool and updated the Youth Protection/Membership/Infraction Incident Information Form.

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.


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

External links

Personal tools