By Kelly Spors

Spring is high time for field trips and other school-related outings – whether to museums, historical sites or amusement parks. But whenever a school event happens off campus, there’s heightened risk that a student, or even multiple students, could be injured.

How can schools keep students safe during school outings while also protecting themselves from the related liabilities? Here are four tips:

1. Create a clear safety policy for field trips and outings. Both K-12 schools and colleges should implement policies specifically for how to keep students safe during outings and how to react if a student gets injured. Just the process of drafting such policies require administrators to address and answer key questions such as:

  • Who will be responsible for overseeing student safety during trips?
  • What steps should be taken before trips to improve student safety?
  • What safety measures can be taken during outings?
  • How many chaperones are needed based on student trip attendance to help ensure safety?
  • What will be the protocols if a student gets injured?

2. Consider safety measures for each outing specifically. The types of injuries that could be incurred depend on the outing type. Of course, bus rides and other transportation to and from the destination pose their own risks. But going to a museum is very different from going to an amusement park in terms of the potential hazards involved.

School administrators, and instructors should consider in advance the types of hazards involved with each particular outing and plan for how cope with them. Any volunteer chaperones should also be given specific instructions for what is expected of them and what to do if a student is injured. Such troubleshooting also helps instructors and school staff think through important trip specifics, such as what types of clothing and other gear students should bring on a trip. (For example, school staff will likely want to remind students to wear sunscreen if the outing involves a long day in the sun.)

3. Keep students accountable, too. Laying out rules for students during outings in advance can help prevent injuries. For example, depending on the outing destination and age of the student, it might be required that students stick together in groups of two or larger – or that everyone in on the trip always stays together. Giving students specifics on what they will need to bring on the trip to make it comfortable and safe, such as what to wear – or not to wear – ;can also protect against injuries.

4. Use carefully drafted consent forms. Having parents or guardians (or students themselves, depending on their age) sign a carefully drafted and detailed permission form that waives the school from liability if injuries occur during outings can help protect it from legal risks, according to an article on Lawyers.com. However, permission forms aren’t foolproof: If a student gets injured due to the school’s negligence – say because a parent feels there was inadequate supervision during the trip – the school could still be held liable.

Advanced planning is a big part of keeping students safe during field trips and protecting the school from liability. The more school staff and chaperons are prepared and know what risks are involved, the better equipped they will be.