President’s Perspective – Safety on School Outings

As the school year begins to wind down, field trips become more common. Proper safety procedures are of utmost importance on these school outings. When groups travel off-site or participate in outdoor pursuits, there is an undeniable risk of injury or incident.

The Canada Safety Council has a longstanding concern that schools and parents must work together to manage risk on school trips. A lapse in risk management can usually be identified when an outing ends in serious injury. Perhaps risks were not assessed properly at the planning stage, or safety rules were not enforced during the event itself. Good risk management practices can aid in preventing serious mishaps.

Well-planned field trips serve as an opportunity to teach skills and safety awareness, when organizers stress possible risks and necessary precautions. They prepare young people to enjoy outdoor activities safely when they are outside the controls of an organized group.

In many cases, hazards can be reduced or removed by following safety standards or guidelines. These can be internal policies and procedures, or can originate from external organizations such as athletic associations, other school boards, or regulating authorities. For instance, they may require precautions such as the use of proper safety equipment, or they may require organizers and operators to train and supervise the participants.

School boards need to have a formal risk assessment process for field trips and outdoor education. Boards should study the location thoroughly, have someone who knows the area on every trip, and be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Parents have a right to assurance that all necessary precautions have been taken.

While we have found school boards to have field trip safety procedure documentation in place, they seem to fall short is communicating these plans with teachers, students, and volunteer parents. Communication is key when it comes to understanding the policies and procedures to be followed on school outings. Without an understanding or knowledge of the safety guidelines, there is no way that one can enforce these safety measures.

Furthermore, roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined when off school property. Each adult or responsible student needs to be in charge of a specific task or duty. When too many people are in charge of one thing, each person may not take their task seriously and depend on the others to be in charge. Having only one individual in charge of one specific responsibility, it is less likely that something will fall through the cracks.

Schools need to provide training and ensure everyone works together seamlessly to create a safe environment for all participants.

Safety, It’s an Attitude!


Jack Smith, President