Guidance for Leaders

  • Planning
  • Equipment and Clothing
  • Equipment (Leader)
  • Ratios (Qualified Staff to Students)
  • Indirect Supervision
  • Safety Procedures
  • Water Hazards
  • Preperation of Participants
  • Mountaineering Activities
  • Environmental Considerations

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

Specifically, the following are considered to be essential:

  • All aspects of the planned walk must be appropriate to the needs and abilities of the participants, i.e. terrain, season, weather.
  • A detailed weather forecast for the area should be obtained prior to the event. See Appendix E.
  • Details of the planned route, including estimated time of return, must be left with an appropriate person.
  • Where a route is planned to finish somewhere other than the starting point, transport arrangements should allow for a range of possibilities.
  • Contingency plans should be made, including possible alternative routes for part or all of the day.


  • The equipment and clothing used must be in good condition and suitable for the event.
  • Party leaders must ensure that all items which are to be used by members of the party are adequate for the type of terrain and time of year.
  • If members of the party arrive inadequately clothed or equipped, plans must be re-evaluated to account for this.


For further information regarding clothing and equipment, please refer to the relevant manuals associated with Low Hills Training or any of the National Governing Body Awards (links listed above), or to the suggested reading list at the end of this section.

The equipment carried by the leader of a walking party must anticipate not only unexpected situations but the predictable shortcomings of any party members’ own equipment.

In addition to individuals carrying their own equipment, the following items should be present within the group:

  • first aid kit (including spares and repairs depending on the circumstances)
  • head torch and spare batteries
  • map and compass
  • mobile phone or alternative method of communication
  • group shelter
  • survival bag
  • spare hat/gloves
  • spare fleece or duvet jacket
  • spare emergency rations of food and drink
  • paper and pencil


The use of mobile phones and radio transceivers is of value; however emergency plans should not rely on their use alone.

Additional equipment may be required depending on the nature of the excursion and for those operating within the scope of a National Governing Body Award. Please refer to the manuals associated with these awards for further information.

For local walks on low level terrain, leaders should select appropriate items from the above list (which may not be exhaustive). Items to be carried should be informed by the risk assessment carried out during the planning stage.

The following ratios are a maximum and should not be exceeded. In some instances it may be necessary to reduce these ratios further.
Low Level                                                Max 1:12
Low Hills (summer conditions)         Max 1:8
High Hills (summer conditions)         Max 1:7
High Hills (winter conditions)             Max 1:6

Actual supervision ratios should be informed by the site specific risk assessments made for the activity and consideration must be given to the nature of the group, terrain, conditions and experience of the supervising staff, and also to the potential impact on the environment and other users of the area.

The size of any group and the strategies used must always allow the leader to remain in control and in effective contact with all members of the group.

Where organisational constraints require large parties to operate they must be broken into manageable groups operating and staffed independently.

In remote terrain, it is desirable to have a second experienced/qualified adult assisting with groups in order to provide extra security.
A decision to lead a party without a second adult will be based upon the training and experience of the leader, the experience of the party, the terrain, and the prevailing conditions.

When young people are to be supervised indirectly, such as during Duke of Edinburgh Award Expeditions or fieldwork activities, the responsibilities of the supervising staff member are no less than for a party being led.

For more information:

When parties who are indirectly supervised are on open or high ground, the supervisor must ensure that they know the location of the group/s at all times. This will usually require continuous, unobtrusive observation of the group.

Unaccompanied parties of young people should contain between 4 and 8 persons.

Related information:

  • The leader must maintain an ongoing awareness of the well-being of each individual in the party throughout the day. Particular attention should be given to the preparedness of members of the group at the start of the day, and the suitability of clothing and equipment.
  • Party members must be briefed on the plan for the day, and must have an appropriate understanding of actions to be taken in the event of an emergency.
  • Prior to the activity taking place, the leader must review the plans and reassure him/herself that they are achievable and appropriate at that time, taking into consideration weather and conditions underfoot, the experience and ability of the group, necessary equipment and daylight hours available.
  • Changes in the weather, both forecast and unexpected, should be observed and responded to as appropriate. The possible effects of various types of weather on the health and comfort of members of the party must be considered, e.g. extremes of heat and cold, wind chill, combination of wind and rain.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council?s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.

All walking activities must be planned around the known capabilities of all members of the group.

Where ambitious projects are planned, a systematic approach to preparation must be taken to enable the final project to be successfully undertaken. Such preparation must appropriately develop the abilities of all members of the group in terms of their physical fitness, technical abilities, and psychological preparedness

The teaching and instruction of these activities is only within the remit of qualified Mountain Instructors and Mountain Guides.

It is crucial to assess the ability and experience of the group in the planning stages and to operate within the scope of this.

In winter, an avalanche forecast should always be obtained along with a relevant weather forecast and an ongoing awareness of snow conditions and avalanche risk should inform the plans for the day.

For more information visit: and

Attention should be drawn to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Walking activities should be conducted in an environmentally aware manner and the philosophy of minimal impact on the environment and on other users should underpin all planning and activity.
The organisation Leave No Trace provides guidelines for adopting a minimum impact approach

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