The safety of both young people and adults is important. A large part of this is about being organised, asking the right questions and doing things that will help safety without taking away a sense of adventure appropriate to the age group.
Scouting cannot be totally risk free, nor should it be, and generally speaking we have a good safety record while still providing a challenging environment for young people. Fun and exciting programmes are at the core of our current fantastic success, after all.
However, reported accidents have increased steadily since 2005, at a higher percentage rate than our growth (currently 3.2%). Even with this increase, it equates to approximately 0.2% of members, which is low, but is something we should all work towards reducing. Interestingly, higher proportions of accidents come from unstructured activities, games, free time and bicycles, while activities covered by permits have a lower accident rate.
Safety – practical tips
This guidance is to help clarify some of the administrative needs surrounding your provision of safer scouting. Additional resources and information can be found at www.scouts.org.uk/safety
As an adult in scouting you have a responsibility to ensure that activities are provided in a safe manner. The Scout Association has a clear safety policy. It is the policy of The Scout Association to provide scouting in a safe manner without risk to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.
The Association believes that this responsibility ranks equally with the other responsibilities incumbent upon those providing scouting activities and functions.
It is the responsibility of all those involved in scouting to seek, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that:
- all activities are conducted in a safe manner without risk to the health of participants
- the provision and maintenance of equipment and buildings for Members and others is safe and without risk to health and adequate for their welfare
- information, instruction, training and supervision is provided with the object of ensuring the health and safety of all those involved in Scouting activities or who may be affected by them
- appropriate arrangements are made to ensure safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, transport, storage and handling of equipment, and substances which are inherently or potentially dangerous.
In the course of the programme, a number of practical activities will be attempted. All activities create some element of risk. It is important therefore that leaders use their common sense in their planning and actions. Parents and carers should be aware of all activities young people are involved in. This is particularly important for activities involving risk. Where required, written consent should be obtained.
Organising your programme
(for further details on all of the following see www.members.scouts.org.uk/a-z )
- Check POR rules
- Is this a Scout-led or externally-led activity?
- Scout-led Check factsheets
- Check if a permit is required
- Complete a risk assessment
- Externally-led: Check whether an Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority licence is required
- If not, check the national governing body qualifications of those running the activity
- Check that the provider has personal liability insurance
- Check whether further insurance is required
- Check whether HQ needs notifying
- Ensure an InTouch process is in place (see below)
- Ensure all activities are approved in accordance with POR
Leader in charge
All meetings, events and activities must have a leader in charge who has responsibility for co-ordinating all adults and young people.
Recent experience has shown that accidents can happen when there isn't a leader clearly designated as being in charge overall, or when that person makes an assumption that other people are looking after safety issues. Responses to accidents are also impaired in such circumstances.
The leader in charge is, simply put, the adult present at an evening meeting, event or activity who has the role of coordinating the work of all adults towards delivering the Programme in a safe manner. Scouting safely is not just about ensuring that risk assessments and safety checks are conducted; all adults need to be clear on what they need to do and young people should be given clear instructions, guidance or rules.
The leader in charge does not have to personally fill in every risk assessment; this can be done by someone else in discussion with other adults. Nor do they have to give rules or guidance to either young people or adults personally. Being the leader in charge is about being the person with an overview of safety in the given situation.
Putting this into practice
Any suitably qualified adult can be designated as being the leader in charge for a meeting, event or activity, but they would normally be someone holding a leader, manager or supporter appointment. The Group Scout Leader must support the arrangement and ensure that the designated leader in charge has satisfactorily completed the enquiry process.
It is extremely important that anyone who has been designated as the leader in charge fully understands their responsibilities. There should be no assumption that other adults are in charge. The leader in charge is responsible for overseeing the activity and all adults and young people. This includes responsibility for registers, headcounts, allocation of roles to specific adults and checking they are aware of their specific responsibilities. The best way of doing this is for all adults involved in the activity to agree which one of them will undertake this function.
Checks could include a discussion about risk assessments, selecting who will give guidance and instructions to young people and when and where head counts will be conducted. The leader in charge should also actively participate by keeping an overview of any activity.
Safety on the agenda
It’s important to keep safety on the agenda of meeting at all levels of scouting. Below is a short guide to the sort of items that might come up in the name of safety. Some things are shown under one heading, purely as an example, but may also apply to other meetings.
Managers’ agenda - safety items:
Leaders’ agenda - safety items:
Remember, everything has an element of safety. Sometimes it seems so obvious we forget to mention it to others to whom it may not be so obvious.
Ensure you understand how and when to record and report incidents, accidents and near misses. Information is contained within the purple card.
Discuss safety at all events, activities and camp-planning meetings and reviews.
Give young people appropriate training, guidance or rules.
We must constantly balance the need for challenge and excitement against risk and safety. Surprisingly, most accidents happen in and around the Scout Headquarters or during camp rather than on adventurous activities.
In order to look after our young people, we should monitor all potential risks by undertaking risk assessment. We should put in place safety control measures to reduce or eliminate risk.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is no more than using your common sense. When you look across the road before crossing you are carrying out a risk assessment. Using a structured approach to risk assessment however, means that we don't take this process for granted.
Step 1: Look for and list hazards
A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. Hazards include electricity, fire, equipment or a specific activity.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Don't forget that as well as young people, this might include leaders, other adults, or members of the public.
Step 3: Evaluate the risk
Consider each hazard in turn. This will determine whether or not you need to do more to reduce the risk.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the risk properly controlled?
- What precautions are already in place?
- Do they comply with the rules? (POR/Activity Rules etc")
- Is the risk reduced as far as is reasonably practical?
- lf not - what more could you do to reduce the risk?
Remember your aim is to make all risks as small as possible.
Step 4: Record your findings
These should always be in an easy to read format. After recording your findings, you should share them with those who took part in the activity.
Step 5: Review your assessment
Revise it if necessary, but do not amend it for every trivial change. This would be very difficult during an activity, particularly a short one like a game. It may help, however, when running an activity like an annual camp or large event to keep a record.
See the factsheet ‘Activities - Risk Assessment’ (FS120000) available as a free download from www.shop.scouts.org.uk
The following quick checklists are a helpful starting point for you when planning and as a reminder at the start of an activity. They are not intended as a substitute for risk assessment appropriate for the conditions you are expecting.
Indoor or outdoor games and activities check includes:
Outings and visits check includes:
If you have a vehicle...
Camping check includes:
Overnight accommodation check includes:
Many activities take young people into new and challenging situations. They may also involve an element of controlled risk. We need not to take young people to the summit on their first walk or into tidal water on their first time in a boat to make it adventurous. It is vital that our activities are at the right level for the young people involved. Cub Scouts in the city may find a day in the country just as, if not more exciting, than a night hike in the moors!
UKHQ (via the Scout Information Centre) must be informed at the earliest suitable opportunity if any person, whether a Member of the Movement or not:
suffers personal injury or illness where that injury or illness necessitates medical treatment (i.e. treatment by a doctor, dentist, nurse, paramedic or at a hospital). Minor injuries or illness not requiring such treatment must be recorded locally, with UKHQ being informed if they subsequently receive medical attention
requires rescuing (where rescue involves any Emergency Service, i.e. Police, Fire, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue or Coastguard)
or dies; in the course of, or arising out of, a Scout activity or while on, or in conjunction with, any Scout property.
If an accident during a Scout activity results in third party damage, UKHQ must be informed at the earliest suitable opportunity.
On receipt of this information UKHQ will issue the necessary instructions and an incident report form.
In the event of any injury or fatality, or damage to third party property, no admission of liability must be made unless advised by UKHQ. Further information can be found in Chapter 7 (emergency procedures) of POR.
More serious accidents
In the event of more serious accidents, refer to your Safe Scouting and Emergency Procedures (purple) card (a copy is enclosed in the great resources section of this handbook). This will act as a short guide through the process. Ensure you are familiar with it and that all leaders have a copy to carry with them. The main points are detailed below:
Safe scouting: a code of conduct
Do ensure all activities are approved in accordance with POR (Rule 9.1)
Do identify hazards and discuss how they will be managed to reduce risk (see the Activities - Risk assessment factsheet; Staying Safe checklists for managers, executive committees and sectional leaders).
Do ensure all meetings, events or activities have a leader in charge who is responsible for overseeing the activity and all adults and young people. This includes, registers, headcounts, allocation of roles to specific adults and checking they are aware of their specific responsibilities (see the leader in charge information provided above). The best way of doing this is for all adults who will be involved in the activity to agree which one of them will undertake this function.
Do give young people appropriate training, guidance and rules.
Do be prepared to deal with accidents (have a first aid kit and relevant emergency contact details).
Don’t be afraid to stop or alter an activity being run by you or another leader.
Don’t put your needs above those of young people. Ensure activities are appropriate for the young people involved.
Don’t ignore concerns expressed by adults or young people.
Don’t assume that someone else is managing safety – always check.
If we see something that looks potentially unsafe then we all have a responsibility to do something about it. The initial step should be to ensure that the potential danger is removed, whether this is something physical or by changing the way that the activity is run or the conditions present.
This will generally be done through talking to those responsible for the activity or the premises. If this doesn’t produce a result then it should be escalated to their line manager.
Reporting potential accidents
- If you see an activity, premises or equipment which is potentially dangerous, report it to the premises manager, line manager or activity organiser immediately.
- If your concerns are ignored, contact the responsible GSL/Commissioner or body.
Reporting near misses
UKHQ wants to hear details of near misses within scouting (unplanned events that did not result in a normally reportable injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so). This is so they can update our best practise and guidance for members to try and ensure the same incident doesn't happen in the future with more serious consequences. It is not about finding fault with those involved in the near miss.
Reporting near misses will allow The Scout Association to identify patterns of incidents and update best practice advice and guidance for members to support future activities.
The reporting of near misses is not to place any blame on those involved, but an important part of safeguarding others from harm in similar incidents in the future.
If you experience a near miss then it is important that this is reported. You can report near misses through the Scout Information Centre or at www.scouts.org.uk/nearmiss .
EMERGENCY : What do I do...?
In the event of an accident:
- Alert the appropriate emergency services, if required.
- Alert your District Commissioner or their designate.
- Alert the emergency contact of those individuals involved.
- If you are abroad, alert any agencies that you are required to by the insurers.
- In the event of a serious accident, incident or loss of life Contact the Duty Media Officer on 0845 300 1818 or 020 8433 7100. A recorded message detailing the contact telephone number of the Duty Media Officer is available after hours.
Air and deep water accidents:
For accidents during air activities or during water activities in coastal or deep sea waters:
- Notify the appropriate government agency.
In the following circumstances, you must inform UKHQ via the Scout Information Centre at the earliest opportunity if:
- Someone suffers a personal injury requiring a doctor, dentist or hospital.
- Someone requires a rescue involving an emergency service.
- Someone dies.
- Third party property is damaged.
Do keep a record of actions and communications.
Do refer all news media to the Duty Media Officer.
Do take care if the news media contact you. Seek support in these situations before talking to the media by calling the emergency support number.
Don’t make any admission of liability.
Don’t initiate contact with the news media.
Remember: safety does not happen by accident.
Nominated First Aider
For any camp or activity there should always be a nominated First Aider. This person must have a basic knowledge of how to use the items in the kit and of current first aid techniques. They should receive regular training to keep their skills up to date.
Prevention is better than cure
Leaders should be aware of any special medical needs. They need to keep accurate and up-to-date records of the young people in their care to pass to the next section. lt may be appropriate to undertake specific training. The parent of the young person in question can often provide this. This might involve the action to take if a young person suffers an asthma attack, has a diabetic-related illness, allergic reaction (such as nut-related or severe hay fever), epileptic fit or similar. Again, prevention is better than cure so Leaders should make themselves aware of how individuals who are prone to such attacks can avoid them happening. A series of factsheets including one on appropriate medical care are available as free downloads from www.shop.scouts.org.uk
Keep an Accident and First Aid Book When an injury occurs, you must ensure that the injured person's parent or carer is informed as soon as possible. Any treatment given should also be noted down in an 'Accident and First Aid Book'.
If treatment from a doctor, dentist or hospital is received, The Scout Association's insurance Department should also be notified. Tell your Group Scout Leader of any accident requiring first aid or medical treatment.
The Law and scouting - A duty of care
Under the terms of the Children Act 1989, leaders have a duty of care towards the young people in their custody. This means that adults should adopt a common sense approach when dealing with injuries and illnesses. lf you act reasonably when dealing with a problem, it is unlikely that you can be accused of unreasonable action after the event.
Level of treatment
When First Aid treatment is given, leaders (and other adults) must act as a responsible parent would do in the circumstances. In practice, this means that they must give a young person the same treatment that they would receive at home. In First Aid terms this might include the provision of pain relief (paracetamol/Calpol or similar) for headaches, or the use of cooling gels for the treatment of minor burns.
You should make sure that you have an accident book in your first aid kit and that all leaders are aware of it. Any accident that occurs during a scouting activity, or where medical treatment is given, as well as details of the treatment given, should be recorded in your accident book.
It is important to note that under the regulations of the Data Protection Act (1998), you must ensure that any personal or medical information regarding your members is not available for others to view. It is suggested therefore that you use a book with detachable pages. In practice, this means that entries can be recorded as usual, but that after an incident the page is removed from the book and then stored securely by, for example, the Executive Committee.
Use of this system ensures that records will still be available where necessary but that the information will only be accessed by the relevant adults. This information may also be helpful in the event of any insurance claim made.
When any treatment is given, a record should be kept in an accident book, kept at the meeting place. If further treatment is required by a hospital or doctor, The Scout Association Information Centre should be notified.
For further guidance please refer to the factsheet ‘Accidents – A Guide to Reporting for leaders and commissioners’ (FS120079) available as a free download from www.shop.scouts.org.uk
For further information regarding the Data Protection Act (1998) and and the new GDPR please see www.shop.scouts.org.uk
The consent of a parent or carer is required before a doctor can carry out any procedures on a young person. Although parental consent cannot be transferred, the Children Act '1989 states that an adult with parental responsibility 'may arrange for some or all of it to be met by a person acting on his or her behalf'. This is achieved by completing the Parent's permission to camp form before the trip. This form allows the parent or carer to delegate the responsibility for medical treatment to the leader of the event. The form is available from the Scout Information Centre.
Consent for young people aged 16 to 18
In law, parental consent is not required for young people over the age of 16. The young person is considered able to give his or her own consent at this stage. However, a young person under 16 cannot override the consent of the parent/carer.
It is important for leaders to have received information from the young person's parents/carers about aversions to any treatment or product.
This is particularly important because of the risk of allergic reactions or a previous poor experience with a particular brand. The most effective way of obtaining this information is to attach a list of potential treatments or medications to the health information form. The form should be completed, amended and returned by the parents or carers.
First aid kits
A First Aid kit should be easily available during every scouting activity. Appoint a person to check its contents are kept up to date. The First Aid kit should be kept in a waterproof case and marked with a white cross on a green background. It should be visible during the meeting or activity. All leaders and Members should know where it can be found.
Contents of the first aid kit
The necessary contents, size, quantity and locations of First Aid kits for residential events will vary depending upon the nature of the event. The First Aid kit suitable for a Patrol hike, for example, is unlikely to be satisfactory as the only kit for a static Cub Scout camp.
The Scout Association offers the following guidance for the contents for a First Aid kit.
The basics are:
- cotton wool
- adhesive plasters (assorted)
- crepe bandages (7.5cm)
- sterile dressings (assorted sizes)
- triangular bandages
- adhesive tape
- cotton conforming bandage (e.g. 'Kling') 7.5cm
- small bowl
- disposable plastic gloves
- individually-wrapped antiseptic wipes (for cleaning First Aiders hands)
- dressing scissors
- safety pins
- notebook and pencil
- plastic bag and seal for disposal of soiled dressings.
Storage and maintenance of contents
All dressings, plasters and bandages should be individually wrapped to ensure that they are sterile. They should also be checked that they are not past their 'use-by' date. All equipment should be kept in a dry, clean, airtight container, which is clearly labelled and accessible in the event of an accident.
Whenever any activity or event is run within scouting it is a requirement that an InTouch system is in place (see POR rule 9.3). This is to ensure; everyone involved is aware of how communication will take place between leaders, participants and those not on the event, there are details of who is present should anything go wrong, and there is a system in place in the event of an emergency.
The procedures put in place to ensure this are likely to vary at different types of events due to the differing circumstances and needs. To facilitate this InTouch is a process that you should follow to define the procedures that will be put in place for your event.
When to use
As the reasons for having InTouch remain the same for all types of events, an InTouch system needs to be in place for every event or activity within scouting. This is the case from the regular weekly meeting through to the multiple week international expedition, from the Beaver Scout games evening to the Scout Active Support residential. Naturally these examples are likely to use very different procedures, but they all need to go through the process and define what procedures they will be using.
The process for you to follow is laid out here in a simple flow chart. Going through the steps of this process should give you an InTouch system for your event that everyone can be made aware of and work within.
In this process:
‘Leaders’ refers to those running an event or those responsible for an event but not present.
‘Parents’ refers to parents, guardians and next of kin.
There are a number of resources available to support InTouch, all of which can be found at www.scouts.org.uk/intouch