Best Practices Adopted in New Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines

October 12, 2017
Josh Howard
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Best Practices Adopted in New Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines
Trail crew members wearing property safety equipment at Platte Clove Preserve in the Catskills. Photo by Sona Mason.


The safety and satisfaction of our volunteers is paramount. To help reduce the risk of accidents and avoid injuries, the Trail Conference has formalized several best practices in a set of Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines.

The Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines will be recommended as best practices initially, with the intention of phasing them in as requirements over the next 24 months. During that time, training and support will be provided. How will these new guidelines affect you? For many volunteers, there will be no change in how you approach your responsibilities. Others will need to take additional steps to reduce the risk of injury while out on the trails. To help understand the best practices we are enacting, meet some volunteers who are taking steps to ensure they are safe and following the new Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines.

Trail Maintainers

Matthew Maintainer is a trail maintainer on Slide Mountain. Matthew always carries a first aid kit, his water bottle, snacks, work gloves, and a pair of clippers. The Guidelines also require Matthew to wear eye protection, such as safety goggles or glasses (sunglasses and prescription glasses are fine).

Workshop Leaders

Teaching Trisha and Thomas are leading a trail maintenance workshop for 20 volunteers in Fahnestock State Park. Prior to the workshop, Thomas checks their first aid kit, counts out eye protection and gloves for all attendees, confirms Trisha’s first aid certification is still valid, and checks where the closest medical facilities are located. Thomas also rehearses his tailgate safety speech to remind participants of the potential hazards they might encounter during the workshop.

Invasive Plant Surveyors

Surveyor Sandy is an invasives surveyor in the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. In addition to her GPS and plant identification materials, she carries a first aid kit. Sandy is likely to encounter some of the same potential hazards— uneven terrain, slip/trip and fall hazards, poison ivy/oak, insect bites, and bee stings— as Matthew, but since she is not cutting and clipping, eye protection is not required.

Trail Crews

Leader Lara is a trail crew leader working to rebuild a section of the Mullet Loop Trail in the Neversink River Unique Area. Before the work trip, Lara’s crew meets at the trailhead to review the planned work, potential hazards, safety procedures, and required safety gear for the day. Lara reminds everyone which crew members have wilderness first aid or basic first aid certifications and where the nearest hospital is located. She tells the crew that she will be carrying the first aid kit. Lara explains the work plan is to build a small turnpike along an eroded section of trail and that they will be using hammers to crush rock, so eye and ear protection, dust masks, hard hats, and gloves will be required. During this tailgate safety session, she asks Unprepared Eugene to change out of his shorts and flip-flops and put on his long pants and boots. Lara also privately checks with Allergic Alan, making sure he packed his Epi-Pen since he is highly sensitive to bee stings.

Sawyers & Swampers

Chainsaw Charlie and Swamper Stephanie are preparing to clear blow downs on the Four Birds Trail. Charlie has a valid B level sawyer certification from completing the mandatory USFS chainsaw safety course, and both have current first aid certifications. Charlie and Stephanie regularly work together as a sawyer and swamper team, but prior to leaving the trailhead, they review their equipment and plans for the day. Stephanie makes sure they each have hard hats, ear and eye protection, gloves, and a first aid kit with trauma packs. Charlie inspects his saw, sawyer chaps, bar oil, and fuel canisters. Each has a backpack with water and food, as well as long-sleeved clothing to wear while working. Stephanie has an emergency whistle she uses to communicate with Charlie while he is working. They share in assessing the safety of their work sites, and Charlie is careful to communicate his cutting plans with Stephanie before he starts his saw.

Explore More

The complete Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines are available for review. Be on the lookout for information sessions and workshops later this year. Sign up for E-Walker for bimonthly newsletters to stay informed on this and more trail news.


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