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High Risk Activities

The Office of Global Health & Safety (OGHS) understands the importance of experiential learning and the valuable experiences it offers. However, it is essential for program leaders to prioritize participant safety, especially during high-risk activities. This guiding document, in conjunction with an OGHS risk assessment, provides program managers with foundational tips for risk assessment and mitigation in high-risk activities.

Remember, this content serves as a foundational resource for program managers to help assess and mitigate risks in high-risk activities. For further guidance or assistance, don’t hesitate to contact OGHS at We are here to support you in creating safe and transformative experiential programs.

Participation Agreements

Before conducting any high-risk activity, it is crucial to establish a participation agreement with participants. The participation agreement outlines the responsibilities, expectations, and risks associated with the activity. 

To learn more about the participation agreement process and request a consult with OGHS, please visit our dedicated Participation Agreement page here.

Assessing Risk

When evaluating the level of risk associated with an activity, consider both the severity of potential stress, harm, or injury and the likelihood of accidents or injuries occurring. To facilitate risk assessment, we recommend adopting a color-coded system:

Color-Coded System

Red Activities: High-risk, requires careful and thorough risk mitigation.

Yellow Activities: Action needed to reduce the associated risks.

Green Activities: Low-risk and generally acceptable.

Factors to Consider

When assessing the level of risk, program leaders should take into account various factors that can influence participant safety.

Consider the following:

      • Age and experience of supervisors, chaperones, and drivers
      • Nature of the activity, including its inherent risks and challenges
      • Participants’ abilities and experience levels
      • Age range of the participants
      • Environmental factors, such as weather conditions and geographic location
      • Ratio of participants to leaders, supervisors, or chaperones

Conducting High-Risk Activities

During high-risk activities, it is crucial to identify potential stress, harm, or injury factors and implement effective risk reduction measures. Here are some strategies to consider:

      • Elevate supervision to closely monitor participant safety.
      • Hiring lifeguards for swimming activities and conducting swim tests.
      • Engaging certified instructors for activities like rock climbing.
      • Enforcing safety rules and protocols at all times.
      • Ensuring participants have the necessary safety equipment.
      • Implementing specific safety requirements, such as wearing hats, sunscreen, and carrying water bottles.

For a more detailed understanding of water-related activities, including swimming, boating, and water-based transportation, please refer to our dedicated resource: Water Activities Guidance. This resource provides specific safety recommendations and considerations for activities in aquatic environments.