BSA has announced the latest revision to the Guide to Safe Scouting (2015). This important document should be included with your scouts’ medical forms on every outing. It is available in PDF format for easy upload to mobile device (particularly when out of cellular range) or on the web, where it is updated quarterly.
This Guide is more than just the policies and procedures of the BSA. All scouters pay a small fee to BSA every year to contribute to the BSA insurance program. As I understand it, BSA is “self-insured.” This means that the BSA keeps its own pool of funds to pay on insurance claims made by Scouters and Scouts over the course of a year. The Guide to Safe Scouting not only serves to educate Scouters on how to run a safe program, but provides an outline of practices that the insurance will cover. In other words, by outlining “best practices” for scouting activities, the Guide reduces the risk that harm will come to our youth, but if harm does come while using best practices, the insurance covers the claim.
Each year, BSA studies incident reports from units, scout camps, and other sources. BSA identifies activities that have unusually high rates of incidents. The types of incidents are then considered for a re-write in the Guide.
Consequently, scouters who are familiar with each year’s revisions to the Guide to Safe Scouting are more likely to avoid problems areas. Often the issues revised in the Guide do not filter down to revised training as quickly as we would like. The Guide’s revisions then help scouters be current even before they have sat through a class.
This year the changes have focused on Safety Afloat with Cub Scouts; Climbing and Rappelling, and COPE Activities; and transportation changes effective September 1, 2015 for 15-passenger vans manufactured before 2005.
For the Cub Scouts in Safety Afloat, the key change was to clarify that Pack and Den activities are allowed on still water. There is still a restriction on moving water and float trips.
The COPE rules were significantly revised. Since I have no training and limited experience on the subject, please refer to the new Guide for information about the updates.
The transportation change will not affect many units, but is significant for some. Since 15-passenger vans tend to be top-heavy, they have a significant risk of rolling over at moderate speeds. Vans manufactured beginning in 2005 have computer stability systems built in to them to reduce the risk of roll overs. Consequently, effective on September 1, 2015, no 15-passenger van manufactured before 2005 will be allowed in BSA sanctioned activities.
If you have not read the Guide to Safe Scouting, take some time to read through it once. You can learn a lot.
Read the language carefully. Prohibited activities are clearly noted. Other activities are restricted by age and health.
Whenever you plan a new activity, read the relevant section of the Guide. It will tell you what training you need and what restrictions you face.
There is even a chart for age-related restrictions for activities and a separate one for hand tools to make it easier to understand. Start with the chart, then read the words. Make sure your Eagle Scout-candidates have a copy of the hand tool chart.