Don’t Let Your Scouts Get High–and I’m not Talking About Drugs



Earlier this month, a friend climbed onto a toilet to reach a light fixture. The toilet seat broke, sending my friend crashing to the ground. She’s been off work for weeks and may miss her daughter’s high-school graduation.

A few years back, another friend fell from a ladder while cleaning his gutters. His broken ankle has fully healed, but he spent several weeks riding around on a knee scooter.

Falling is easy, but the sudden stop at the end can be very hard indeed. It can even be fatal. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011 work-related falls resulted in 113 deaths and 15,460 nonfatal injuries that cost workers more than a day off the job. That’s about 43 falls a day. And who knows how many more deaths and injuries resulted from non-work-related falls or from homeowners falling off stools, toilet seats, or other poor ladder substitutes?

Statistics like those led the BSA to develop “Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations.” This three-page document is packed with information designed to keep your Scouts–and you–safe during service projects and other potentially risky activities. Of particular interest:

  • Youth up to age 14 may use step stools that are up to 4 feet above the ground. They may not go higher than 4 feet, including on scaffolds and open platforms.
  • Youth age 14 or older may use step stools or 6-foot ladders.
  • Only adults age 18 or older may climb scaffolds and open platforms above 4 feet (with proper fall protection in the latter case).



Will these rules limit your ability to do certain types of service projects? Undoubtedly. But they should also limit your need to visit the emergency room or worse.

According to Proverbs 16:18 in the Bible, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Ignoring safety rules has much the same effect.

For more information on ladder safety, check out these web pages:


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