Scouting FAQ: Keeping service projects SAFE

Doing Good Turns is an essential part of Scouting. But those Good Turns can take a turn for the worse if Scouts and leaders aren’t properly prepared and supervised. A great way to avoid problems is to use the SAFE Service Project Planning Checklist.

What is SAFE?

SAFE is Scouting’s model for ensuring all activities (not just service projects) are conducted safely. The four points of SAFE are Supervision, Assessment, Fitness and Skill, and Equipment and Environment.

What does Supervision cover?

Adult leaders are adequately trained, experienced and skilled to lead the activity, and they enlist qualified instructors, guides and safety personnel as needed. They stay engaged with participants to ensure compliance with established rules and procedures.

What does Assessment cover?

Leaders assess risk during planning and review applicable rules to make sure planned activities are permitted. They also consider weather conditions; work hours; and food, water and hygiene needs. For service projects in particular, they check the area for any hazards and assess requirements for personal protective equipment such as work gloves, safety glasses and fall protection.

John R. Fulton Jr.

What does Fitness and Skill cover?

In addition to reviewing participants’ Annual Health and Medical Records, leaders make sure participants have the right skills or training for the task at hand. They also follow the age-appropriate guidelines for tool use.

What does Equipment and Environment cover?

Leaders ensure proper equipment use and follow the most restrictive and protective guidelines. If there’s doubt about a particular task, they recruit properly trained and/or experienced adults to complete it.

What tools can Scouts use?

Tool usage varies by age and is detailed at SAFE Project Tool Use. At one end of the scale, Lions and Tigers may not use tools on service projects; at the other end, older Scouts, Sea Scouts and Venturers can use a variety of tools, including some power tools. Note, however, that tools like riding mowers, chain saws and pressure washers are limited to adult use only. 

Is it true that ladders are prohibited?

Work at elevations of 4 feet or higher is prohibited for any youth, but older Scouts, Sea Scouts and Venturers can use the first three steps of a ladder or step stool. Work below grade that includes trenching or excavations 2 feet deep or more is not allowed.

Where can I learn more?

The SAFE Service Project Checklist will walk you through the steps you need to take. You can learn more about all BSA safety policies in the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Josh Ritchie

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