By Darryl Alder
Oct 18, 2017

Avoiding Personal Risk As a Young Men’s Leader in Scouting

By not registering next year, not one cent will be saved. We have a flat rate contract with BSA for 2018 for both youth and leaders, all of whom should be registered—Steve Hoskins, LDS Church Risk Management

Over the months since the Church announced that it would no longer charter Venturing Crews and Varsity Scout Teams, they have released and updated “Implementing the New Teacher and Priest Activities.”  This FAQ poses 17 questions and answers, but the last seven deal with safety and insurance.

The intent of this post is to clarify what we recently learned from Steve Hoskins from LDS Church Risk Management and who has served as a volunteer on the National Council’s Risk Management Team. He began by saying he had seen many cases where unnecessary risk had caused harm to both Scouts and Scouters. It has also exposed leaders to financial liability and mental grief. ​

Are there any changes in liability insurance coverage for leaders of Church-sponsored activities and Scouting activities?

The Church’s FAQ
The answer to this question depends on the leaders’ circumstances. Individuals who are registered with the BSA as leaders of a Cub or Scout unit will continue to have access to primary liability insurance coverage through the BSA. However, when units begin using the new activities, leaders of teachers and priests will no longer have this insurance coverage unless an individual teacher or priest and his leader are registered with the BSA.
Hoskins’ Explanation
Any registered Scout leader involved in a vehicle accident will be covered by BSA’s General Liability Insurance if they followed the Guide to Safe Scouting,  Whenever the Guide is followed, it makes that activity an official Scouting activity, but we cannot call Scouting activities Church activities if we want BSA coverage, so we must be careful when reporting incidents to BSA National.
The following policy on liability insurance applies to all Church-sponsored activities that are not connected with Scouting: “The Church does not typically purchase primary liability insurance but uses Church funds to defend and pay claims. On a case-by-case basis, the Church may assist those who are sued in connection with Church activities.The Church will attempt to exhaust all available coverage before using Church funds” (Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, 8.21). This policy has been in place for all Young Women activities and combined youth activities for some time.—Implementing the New Teacher and Priest Activities.[/pullquote]In September the LDS Church released a FAQ sheet entitled: Implementing the New Teacher and Priest Activities. Since the FAQ was released, several changes have been made; clearly it is important to check back at “The Teacher and Priest Activities” website  for updates.  Registered Scout  leaders have a tremendous benefit not available for other church activities, because of this, I encourage all Young Men leaders to register as an Assistant Scoutmaster, unit committee member or Merit Badge counselor.  That said, if you help with a Scouting activity but are not not registered with BSA, they will cover you after your homeowner’s insurance is exhausted, but If it is not a Scout activity there is no BSA liability insurance. At that point the home owners insurance will pay first, with the Church coming in second and then only after a case by case review.BSA liability insurance only covers adult leaders; there is no coverage if a boy hurts another boy. When that happens the adult and church may be charged with negligent supervision. For that reason alone every activity should be in compliance with the Guide to Safe Scouting, 

Are there safety requirements or guidelines for Church-sponsored activities?

The Church’s FAQ
The Church continues to teach principles of safety and encourage ward and stake priesthood, auxiliary, and activity leaders to apply these principles based on their local needs and conditions (seeFirst Presidency letter, May 12, 2017, and Priesthood, auxiliary, and activity leaders need to use these principles to carefully assess and address potential risks before approving and carrying out activities (see Handbook 2, 13.6.20, 13.6.9).
Hoskins’ Explanation
When planning any Scouting activity, we must follow the Guide to Safe Scouting and whenever any other Church activity is planned, leaders should consult and use the Activity_Plan_Interactive or Print Version. Leaders  may also find the Permission and Medical Release Form (Print version (updated July 11, 2017) or Interactive version) useful.

How will high-adventure activities—such as climbing, rappelling, white-water rafting, and kayaking—be approved and managed in order to minimize risk? 

The Church’s FAQ
Local units should counsel together and follow the safety guidelines for outdoor activities set forth in the First Presidency letter, May 12, 2017, and Handbook 2, 13.6.20. For example, “When activities require specific physical skills or experience, then additional planning, organization, and preparation are required. It may be necessary to obtain specialized training or use professional guides.” Leaders should also follow the guidelines at
Hoskins’ Explanation
Anyone who is planning High Adventure activities ought register their youth and leaders with BSA, if for no other reason than liability insurance coverage and I encourage all Church youth groups to use BSA camps and high adventure bases, because our statistics show that these properties are safer than ward or stake “hobo” camps. 

Is there financial assistance available to participants in Church-sponsored activities who are injured or who incur medical expenses?

The Church FAQ
Where personal health and accident insurance is available, participants in Church-sponsored activities (including Scouting) are responsible to access all available benefits provided through such insurance if they are injured during an activity. Participants are also eligible for Church Activity Medical Assistance (CAMA), which provides secondary financial assistance in case of an accident or injury during a Church-sponsored activity. (See Handbook 2,13.6.9; Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, 8.22.)
Hoskins’ Explanation
The Church Activity Medical Assistance(CAMA) offers coverage for injured youth and adults, but only after their own medical insurance has come to play. If an individual is injured while participating in a Church activity in the United States or Canada, local bishops can request assistance for certain medical or funeral expenses through CAMA.  This applies to both Scouting and other Church activities.r

Other FAQs that Steve did not comment on:

Are Church activities required to have two-deep leadership?
Yes. “At least two adult supervisors should be present at every activity” (First Presidency letter, May 12, 2017). In order to protect youth and leaders, situations where a young person and an adult meet one-on-one should be avoided and discouraged.Do adult leaders of teacher- and priest-age young men need to complete the Youth Protection certification every two years? 
Yes. “At least two adult supervisors should be present at every activity” (First Presidency letter, May 12, 2017). In order to protect youth and leaders, situations where a young person and an adult meet one-on-one should be avoided and discouraged. When leaders plan local activities for youth, do they still file tour plans? 
No. The BSA Tour and Activity Plan form was discontinued as of April 1, 2017. However, planning and preparation before an activity is essential for safe activities. The Activity_Plan is a helpful resource for leaders as they plan and get approval for activities. 

How should leaders report injuries or serious health issues that occur during Church-sponsored activities?
If the accident occurs during a Scouting activity, follow all of the instructions found in the Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, 8.11. If the accident occurs during a Church-sponsored activity, follow the instructions found in Handbook 2, 13.6.20

What about BSA’s indemnification requirement for use of their camps?
While BSA requires a certificate of liability for all non-Scout groups using Scouting properties, in the case of the Church, both groups have signed a mutual indemnification agreement. That is why all Church youth groups should use BSA camps.

Author: Darryl Alder | Retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. However, his pride in Scouting, is his 59 years as a volunteer serving as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative and Commissioner.

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2 thoughts on “Avoiding Personal Risk As a Young Men’s Leader in Scouting

  1. AvatarBrian

    Good article, thanks! FYI – In your post, the question about Youth Protection is followed by a duplicate copy of the answer to the question about two-deep leadership.

  2. Kevin Hunt (the Scout Blogger)Kevin Hunt (the Scout Blogger)

    Really great things to think about. Safety and risk management. And just because there is no longer the paper requirement of the “tour permit”, we should each work very hard to maintain absolute safety – spiritual and physical – in all of our activities and outings. And though the paperwork requirements are disappearing, we each need to take adequate precautions to make sure that all are safe and protected (including from liability). We may think now that it is not needed … but wait until the accident and see who is “liable”. (I can speak to that subject after 15 plus years in the fields of Safety and Risk Management and the costs to everyone!)


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