Scouting is not a safe activity. It is this lack of “safe” that attracts our scouts. The adventure that they enjoy is enjoyable because they are taking risks. To make scouting “safe” would remove the essence of scouting and be the death knell of the movement. This is not to say that no cognisance is taken of what risks exist. Indeed, considerable work is put into reducing risks. But the balance must be kept between reasonable risks and risks which are not reasonable. In sending your child to scouts you are voluntarily, on behalf of your child, agreeing to assume the risks that scouts are exposed to.
In our experience there is very little understanding among parents of the risks that can materialise at scouts. An understanding of the risks involved is essential for parents to take an informed decision on whether to allow their child to participate in an activity. While it is impossible to list every risk for every activity, this section briefly discusses risks in scouting.
Hiking inherently carries risk. This is especially true in the Western Cape where the terrain can be rugged and the weather variable. Scouts are exposed to the risk of personal injury through falls. They are exposed to the risk of hyperthermia (heat stroke) when hiking in hot conditions and hypothermia when hiking in cold or wet conditions. More senior scouts hike into remote regions, many hours from any help and far from cell phone contact, vastly increasing response time in the event of risk event occurring.
We mitigate these risks through:
- Training – First Aid, Emergency procedures and good hiking practices;
- Equipment – Discussions on suitable equipment;
- Emergency response procedure – How to respond to an emergency;
- Matching the scout to the hike – Scouts are evaluated for hiking ability, stamina and fitness.
Camping is considerably less risky than hiking. Nonetheless, accidents happen on camps. To mitigate these risks we teach our scouts safe axemanship and the correct handling of ﬁres. Responsibility while swimming and ensuring that our scouts are well trained in scouting skills are essential parts or the reduction of risk on camps.
Heavy pioneering involves poles of up to 6 meters in length, collectively weighing several hundred kilograms. As can be imagined the potential for disaster is always there where a pole breaks, a rope snaps or a lashing is simply not tight enough. We mitigate the risks involved by:
- Regularly checking and replacing ropes;
- Ensuring lashings are correctly and tightly tied;
- Carefully controlling the construction and dismantling of larger structures.
Accidents happen at any time including Thursday meetings. Sometimes the games played result in an accident and sometimes an accident happens during an activity. We mitigate the risks by training, adult supervision and selection of activities. Nonetheless, scouts will be injured in the course of an activity – that is the natural result of 30 enthusiastic teenagers in a scouting environment.