By Boy Scouts of America
Aug 05, 2014

General Health and Safety FAQs

Every Summer the phones at our Scout Service Centers with safety questions. The most common can be answered here: Annual Health and Medical Record, tour and activity plan, shooting sports program. But here are several others we often get:

zip lineAge-Appropriate Guidelines

Q. Can Scouts use zip lines?
A. Zip-lining is considered age-appropriate for Venturing-age youth and older Boy Scouts. If the youth are participating in a commercial zip-line activity that is not located on a BSA-owned property, then we suggest you make sure that organization follows the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) standards for installation, maintenance, and operation.

Please refer to the Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations if you have questions about any other type of tool.

dogAnimals on Campouts

Q. Can we bring animals or pets on campouts? A. No, animals or pets are not part of tours or activities in Scouting. This does not preclude merit badge programs where specific animals are part of the merit badge (Horsemanship, Mammal Study, Reptile and Amphibian Study, etc.). The preface to the Guide to Safe Scouting states that, “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.”

Aquatics Safety

Q. Is a tour and activity plan required for aquatics activities? A. Yes, a tour and activity plan is required for all aquatics activities. Please review the tour and activity plan FAQs.

Q. What training is required for aquatics activities? A. Adult leaders supervising a swimming activity must have completed Safe Swim Defense training within the previous two years. Adult leaders supervising activities afloat must also have completed Safety Afloat training within the previous two years. CPR training is advised.

Q. Are Cub Scout units allowed to conduct boating activities such as canoeing, fishing, sailing, and whitewater? A. No. Units may not stagecanoeing such activities. They must be carried out at the district or council levels. Please review the Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities and Safety Afloat, both found in the Guide to Safe Scouting, to see aquatics activities in which Cub Scouts can operate kayaks, canoes, sailboats, rowboats, or motorboats—with or without adults also aboard—and that the activities are limited to council or district events on flat, non-running waters.

Q. Can our district offer Cub Scout units floating trips or trips on large commercial vessels? A. Districts and councils may not stage such events on flowing water, but they may do so on a lake. According to Safety Afloat, “Cub Scout activities afloat are limited to council or district events that do not include moving water.” And while Safety Afloat does restrict small-boat activities for Cub Scouts to district or council events, this does not apply to transportation on large commercial vessels such as ferries or cruise ships. Other examples include harbor tours, whale-watching excursions, and rides on tall ships. Commercial vessels are inspected and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and have crews with appropriate Coast Guard licenses.

Chemical Fuels

Q. Are we allowed to use heaters inside our tents if there is not an open flame? A. Please review the Chemical Fuels and Equipment Policy for detailed information. No flames are allowed in tents. This includes burning any solid, liquid, gel, or gas fuel—including tents or teepees that feature or support stoves or fires; and any chemical-fueled equipment or catalytic heaters.


CPR-01Q. Are online-only CPR courses accepted by the BSA? A. Online-only courses are not accepted. The BSA will accept nationally recognized blended courses—such as from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Emergency Care and Safety Institute—where competency can be demonstrated to an instructor.

Q. Is there an agreement between the BSA and the American Red Cross? A. Yes, there is an agreement between the Boy Scouts of America and the American Red Cross. You can view the American Red Cross and Boy Scouts of America Training Agreement for more details.


Q. What coverage do we have for Scouts during Scouting activities? A. Please review the Insurance Coverage alert that was updated in December 2011. Another resource to review is the Insurance section of the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Lightning Safety

Q. Is there any type of training about lightning and weather safety? A. Yes, there is an online training course offered through the MyScouting page called Weather Hazards. This course will provide training on all types of weather situations including lightning safety. You can also review the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

Parades and Floats

Q. Can Scouts go on a hayride or ride on a trailer in a parade? A. Yes, Scouts can participate in hayrides or parades but with certain provisions. Scouts cannot be transported to or from the event in the trailer or the truck. You can review additional provisions in the Parade Floats and Hayrides section of the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Power Tools and Heights

Q. What are the BSA’s guidelines for youth using power tools on service projects? A. Please review the Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations for the specific guidelines.

Q. Is there an age requirement to use a lawn mower as part of a service project?
A. For powered mowers and blowers, the operator must be at least 16 years of age.

Q. Is there a restriction on the height from which a Scout can perform work on a service project? A. Yes, there are restrictions that have been put into place on the height at which a Scout can be working. The Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations addresses this policy.


Q. Are Cub Scouts allowed to launch rockets? A. Rockets may be usedrockets in the Scouting program. In Cub Scouts, follow the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety . In most cases, adults who are qualified should be the ones to arm and launch the rockets. Please be aware of local regulations on launches; some areas restrict them just like fireworks.

Service Projects

Q. Is there anything I can use to help when planning a service project? A. Please refer to the Service Project Planning Guidelines . This document is a tool to help in planning service projects as well as Eagle Scout projects.

Sheath Knives

Q. What is the official BSA regulation on carrying sheath knives? A. Sheath knives are not prohibited by the BSA, but they may be regulated by state or local ordinances and/or by camp “rules.” We recommend that the right tool for the job be used (cutting branches or ropes). We do not encourage wearing them at the waist as injury could occur during falls.

Training Courses

Q. How long are the training courses valid? A. Please review the Spring 2011 training update archive for a full listing. Below is a shortened listing:

  • Youth Protection—every two years
  • Safe Swim Defense—every two years
  • Paddle Craft Safety—every three years
  • BSA Lifeguard—every three years
  • Climbing Lead Instructor—every two years
  • Climbing Instructor—every two years
  • COPE/Climbing Inspector—every two years
  • Safety Afloat—every two years
  • Hazardous Weather—every two years
  • Climb On Safely—every two years
  • Trek Safely—every two years


Q. Is there a limit to the total amount of driving time to Scouting activities during one day? A. According to the Transportation section of the Guide to Safe Scouting, driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours per day with frequent stops for rest, food, and recreation. All state and local laws should be followed at all times.

Q. Does the BSA have a policy about cell phone usage by drivers? A. According to the Transportation section of the Guide to Safe Scouting, drivers should refrain from using cell phones (including hands-free units) and text-messaging devices while driving.

Trips and Outings

Q. Can nonregistered participants attend troop campouts? A. According to the Guide to Safe Scouting, two registered adult leaders, or one registered adult leader and a parent of a participating Scout or other adult, one of whom must be 21 years of age or older, are required for all trips and outings.

Q. Can a leader bring his or her younger children on a troop campout? A. The Camping section of the Guide to Safe Scouting states:

“If a well-meaning leader brings along a child who does not meet these age guidelines, disservice is done to the unit because of distractions often caused by younger children. A disservice is also done to the child, who is not trained to participate in such an activity and who, as a nonmember of the group, may be ignored by the older campers.”

Q. When is Wilderness First Aid (WFA) required? A. WFA training is required by the camp standards for council high-adventure and backcountry camps, backcountry COPE and climbing, and by our national high-adventure bases. There are no unit-centric requirements, only program requirements.

Unauthorized and Restricted Activities

Q. Is laser tag an approved activity? A. 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. Please review additional information located in the Unauthorized and Restricted Activities section of the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Q. Can Scouts participate in martial arts or anti-abduction demonstrations? A. Scouts cannot participate in the demonstrations, but they may observe a demonstration.

Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA


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One thought on “General Health and Safety FAQs

  1. Avatardone

    Great article Darryl… Thanks for taking the time to compose and post it. It should be required reading (period).


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