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 life jacket; 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.
Reference: The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety



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.

For more information on caving policies, go to

Climbing and Rappelling

The requirements applicable to climbing and rappelling listed in National Camp Standards, No. 430-056, apply to district and council activities.

  • The BSA limits district and council activities to bouldering, top-rope climbing, and belayed rappelling.
  • Lead climbing is prohibited as part of a council or district activity, but it may be simulated using a top-rope belay.

Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts may do the following:

  • Participate in bouldering (climbing on boulders or other steep faces without going more than a few feet off the ground) no higher than the climber’s shoulder height using trained adult spotters.
  • Climb in a climbing gym or using a portable wall or other age-appropriate facility with close supervision and age-appropriate instruction and equipment.

Webelos Scouts may do the following:

  • Rappel with a trained adult belayer and backup.

Boy Scouts may do the following:

  • Belay with supervision and a backup.

For older Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers:

  • Units with youth who are at least 13 years old may elect to participate in lead climbing, snow and ice climbing, caving, and canyoneering with training from a nationally recognized organization that trains climbing instructors in the appropriate specialized activity. BSA National Camping Schools do not train climbing directors and instructors in lead climbing, snow and ice climbing, caving, or canyoneering.

BSA units that want to conduct their own bouldering, climbing, rappelling, or other related climbing activities must follow the requirements set forth in Climb On Safely.

The Eight Points of Climb On Safely:

  1. Qualified supervision
  2. Qualified instructors
  3. Physical fitness
  4. Safe area
  5. Equipment
  6. Planning
  7. Environmental conditions
  8. Discipline
References: Climb On Safely, No. 430-099 and
Topping Out: A BSA Climbing/Rappelling Manual, No. 32007

COPE Activities

A COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is defined as any activities listed in the high-course events or low-course activities portions of the Project COPE manual, No. 34371, and are intended to be used in conjunction with a council activity that meets the current standards. Units may participate in age-appropriate initiative games, but under no circumstances should a unit attempt to construct lowor high-course elements.


Slacklining is an adventure program growing in popularity. As with any activity involving height and motion, there is risk involved. Before units, districts, or councils decide to promote or host slacklining activities and other adventure sports, they must follow the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety and submit a tour and activity plan for council review with a description that includes the slacklining activity.

Staff members for these types of events are responsible for learning proper setup, operational guidelines, and safety techniques. Equipment used for these activities must be designed for the adventure sport industry and will be exposed to extreme forces. Therefore, it should not be used for other purposes. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Fall precautions should include spotters or crash pads. Stepping off the line safely is recommended when a participant feels he or she is about to fall. Trees used for anchors should be protected from damage and be at least 8 inches in diameter. The line should never be more than 3 feet high. Never allow more than one participant on the line at a time. Acrobatics (any time your head is lower than your torso) are prohibited.

Unauthorized and Restricted Activities

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

  1. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are banned from program use. The exception is council-approved ATV programs. They are not approved for unit use. ATVs are defined as motorized recreational cycles with three or four large, soft tires, designed for off-road use on a variety of terrains.
  2. Boxing, karate, and related martial arts—except judo, aikido, and Tai Chi—are not authorized activities.
  3. Chainsaws and mechanical log splitters may be authorized for use only by trained individuals over the age of 18, using proper protective gear in accordance with local laws.
  4. Exploration of abandoned mines is an unauthorized activity.
  5. Varsity football teams and interscholastic or club football competition and activities are unauthorized activities.
  6. Fireworks secured, used, or displayed in conjunction with program and activities is unauthorized except where the fireworks display is conducted under the auspices of a certified or licensed fireworks control expert.
  7. The selling of fireworks as a fund-raising or moneyearning activity by any group acting for or on behalf of members, units, or districts may not be authorized by councils.
  8. Flying in hang gliders, ultralights, experimental aircraft, or hot-air balloons (nontethered); parachuting; and flying in aircraft as part of a search and rescue mission are unauthorized activities. Tethered hot-air balloon flights are authorized, and a flying plan must be submitted.
  9. Motorized go-carts and motorbike activities are unauthorized for Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs. Go-carting conducted at a commercial facility that provides equipment and supervision of cart operation is authorized upon submittal of a completed tour and activity plan. Participating in motorized speed events, including motorcycles, boats, drag racing, demolition derbies, and related events are not authorized activities for any program level.
  10. Participation in amateur or professional rodeo events and council or district sponsorship of rodeos are not authorized.
  11. Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball, laser tag or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations. Units with council approval may participate in formally organized historical reenactment events, where firearms are used and intentionally aimed over the heads of the reenactment participants. The use of paintball guns, laser guns or similar devices may be utilized in target shooting events with council approval and following the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. Council approval means the approval of the Scout Executive or his designee on a tour permit specifically outlining details of the event. (However, law enforcement departments and agencies using firearms in standard officer/agent training may use their training agenda when accompanied with appropriate safety equipment in the Law Enforcement Exploring program.)
  12. Hunting is not an authorized Cub Scout or Boy Scout activity, although hunting safety is part of the program curriculum.

    (The purpose of this policy is to restrict chartered packs, troops, and teams from conducting hunting trips. However, this policy does not restrict Venturing crews from conducting hunting trips or special adult hunting expeditions provided that adequate safety procedures are followed and that all participants have obtained necessary permits and/or licenses from either state or federal agencies. While hunter safety education might not be required prior to obtaining a hunting license, successful completion of the respective state voluntary program is required before participating in the activity.)
  13. Motorized personal watercraft (PWC), such as Jet-Skis®, are not authorized for use in Scouting aquatics, and their use should not be permitted in or near BSA program areas. The exception is council-approved PWC programs. They are not approved for unit use.
  14. Except for law enforcement officers required to carry firearms within their jurisdiction, firearms shall not be brought on camping, hiking, backpacking, or other Scouting activities except those specifically planned for target shooting under the supervision of a currently certified BSA national shooting sports director or National Rifle Association firearms instructor.
  15. Parasailing, or any activity in which a person is carried aloft by a parachute, parasail, kite, or other device towed by a motorboat, including a tube, or by any other means, is unauthorized.
  16. All activities related to bungee cord jumping (sometimes called shock cord jumping) are unauthorized.
  17. Technical tree-climbing with ropes or harnesses is not authorized as an activity.
  18. Water chugging and related activities are not authorized for any program level.


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 Handbook, and Wolf Handbook

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 Money-Earning Application 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).
    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.

    Bicycle Safety

    Bicycle riding is fun, healthy and a great way to be independent. But it is important to remember that a bicycle is not a toy; it’s a vehicle! Be cool—follow these basic safety tips when you ride.

    • Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. As with all Scouting activities, these principles should be applied in your cycling event.
    • Wear a properly fitted helmet. Protect your brain; save your life! Bicycle helmets can reduce head injuries by 85 percent, according to the NHTSA.
    • Adjust your bicycle to fit. Make sure you can stand over the top tube of your bicycle.
    • Assure bicycle readiness. Make sure all parts are secure and working well. Assure that tires are fully inflated and brakes are working properly.
    • See and be seen. Wear clothing that makes you more visible, such as bright neon or fluorescent colors. Wear reflective clothing or tape. Avoid riding at night.
    • Watch for and avoid road hazards. Stay alert at all times. Be on the lookout for hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, animals, or anything that could cause you to crash. If you are riding with friends and you are in the lead, call out and point to the hazard to alert the riders behind you.
    • Follow the rules of the road. Check and obey all local traffic laws. Always ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow— not against it! Yield to traffic and watch for parked cars.

    For more information on bicycle safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website at

    Skating Safety

    Skating, which includes ice skating, skateboarding, rollerskating, and in-line skating (rollerblading), is fun and healthy. But it is important to remember the safety concerns, primarily risks of falls and collisions, while participating in any of these skating activities. These safety tips emphasize prevention, and are meant to cover all BSA skating programs.

    • Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. As with all Scouting activities, these principles should be applied in your skating event.
    • Always skate within your ability. If you don’t know how to skate, seek instruction. If you haven’t skated in awhile, take it slow and easy. Don’t try to skate too fast or do fancy tricks. Know how to stop safely.
    • Skate at a safe and comfortable speed. Avoid dangerous pranks.
    • Watch where you skate! When skating indoors, keep in mind that others have varying abilities of expertise. Skating into people can cause serious injury.
    • Racing, hockey, or similar activities are to be held only in areas free of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and hazardous objects. No skating activity is authorized on streets that have not been blocked off to traffic.
    • Skate on a smooth surface or terrain. A skating center is best because the surface is well maintained. When you skate outdoors, check the surface. Any small rock, pothole, or crack could cause you to lose your balance and fall. Iced surfaces should be rigid and completely frozen.
    • Do not skate at night. Others can’t see you and you can’t see obstacles or other skaters.
    • Wear full protective gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads, and wrist protectors) when skating outdoors. The gear is optional when skating indoors at a skating center as risk of injury is reduced when the skating surface is smooth and well maintained, and discipline is enforced. Protect your brain; save your life! Helmets can reduce head injuries by 85 percent, according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Visit their website at
    • Wear properly fitting equipment and assure equipment readiness. Make sure all parts are secure and working well. Before permitting equipment to be used in a BSA activity, the supervisor should determine that all skates and/or skateboards are well maintained and in good repair, consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendation. Actual maintenance and repair are the responsibility of the owner.
    • See and be seen. Wear clothing that makes you more visible, such as bright neon or fluorescent colors. Wear reflective clothing or tape. Avoid skating at night.
    • Watch for and avoid road hazards. Stay alert at all times. Be on the lookout for hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, animals or anything that could cause you to crash. If you are skating with friends and you are in the lead, call out and point to the hazard to alert the skaters behind you.
    • Follow the rules of the road. Check and obey all local traffic laws. Yield to traffic and watch for parked cars. NEVER “hitch a ride” on any vehicle. For more information, go to

    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 ageand activity-appropriate procedures and guidelines for each particular equine activity. Policies and procedures should include routine horse care, participant guidelines, staff policies, and emergency plans.

    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.

    For more information, see the following websites: corrall.php,, and