Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Youth Development > Minnesota 4-H > Risk management for 4-H volunteers > Overall risk management policies and practices


Overall risk management policies and practices

Minnesota 4-H is committed to providing safe and healthy environments for youth and adults participating in 4-H programs and activities.

Program requirements

  • Minnesota 4-H is committed to providing safe and healthy environments for youth participating in 4-H programs and activities.
  • Programs must be prepared to include and accommodate youth and volunteers with a diverse range of abilities and cultural, ethnic, and sexual identities.
Return to table of contents

Youth participation

Youth, including Cloverbuds, attending any 4-H program must be enrolled in 4-H, except as noted below:

  • A short-term low-risk marketing program where the parent or responsible adult are present and responsible for their child(ren). Examples include: open house at school, club recruitment night or acceptable activity with intent to recruit new members.
  • A meeting where new youth and families gather to complete enrollment materials.
  • A community service or fundraising event sponsored by 4-H and offered to the public. A waiver form must be completed by all participants in certain recreational events (e.g. 5K), including currently enrolled 4-H members; obtain this from the 4-H Program Coordinator.
Return to table of contents

Volunteer participation

Any adult who volunteers with the Minnesota 4-H program must meet the following requirements:

  • Adults who may spend unsupervised time with 4-H members or handle funds as part of Minnesota 4-H must be accepted as a "Minnesota 4-H Volunteer";
    • This includes an application, criminal background check, and orientation.
    • The orientation includes the a Safety of Minors section with information on reporting child abuse and neglect and strategies to reduce the potential for child abuse in programs for minors.
    • Minnesota 4-H volunteers are required to promptly report observed or suspected abuse or neglect of any minor.

Adults who transport 4-H members on behalf of Minnesota 4-H or provide overnight supervision to 4-H members must be "Minnesota 4-H Volunteers" and 21 years of age or older.

  • Adults in private homes where 4-H members are involved in overnight stays must be "Minnesota 4-H Volunteers," 21 years of age or older successfully complete a home visit arranged by the 4-H program coordinator.
    • In private home situations that involve overnight stays individuals that are 18 or older and not enrolled in 4-H must be screened.

Adults who are not accepted as Minnesota 4-H Volunteers may only work with 4-H members when under the direct supervision of two or more Minnesota 4-H Volunteers or Extension employees.

  • Minnesota 4-H Volunteers must not ask or allow parents, guardians, and community volunteers who have not gone through the required application, background screening, and orientation to serve in a role where they will have unsupervised contact with minors other than their own child or that otherwise requires status as a MN 4-H volunteer.
Return to table of contents


When minors attend programs without a parent/guardian, Minnesota 4-H Volunteers and Extension employees are expected to provide adequate supervision.

  • A minimum of two Minnesota 4-H Volunteers and/or Extension employees must be present at all times. These individuals are included in the following overall ratios:
    • For ages 8 and younger, 1:8 adult to youth ratio.
    • For ages 9 to 14, 1:10 adult to youth ratio.
    • For ages 15 and older, 1:12 adult to youth ratio.
  • These ratios must be met at all times.
  • Minnesota 4-H Volunteers are responsible for program organization and are available in case of an emergency.
  • Example: A 4-H club project meeting has 25 youth participating. Eight youth are ages 8 and younger, eleven youth are ages 9 to 14, and six youth are ages 15 and older. The requirement is three volunteers. Ideally all three volunteers are Minnesota 4-H Volunteers. At minimum, the volunteers must include at least two Minnesota 4-H Volunteers. The other volunteer may be a parent/guardian as long as the adult will be under the direct supervision of the two Minnesota 4-H Volunteers at all times.
Return to table of contents

Adult/youth interactions

Both in group and home settings, Minnesota 4-H Volunteers are expected to interact with youth in the following manner:

  • Follow the requirements of the Minnesota 4-H Volunteer Code of Conduct and/or Minnesota 4-H Parent/Guardian Code of Conduct.
  • Promptly report observed or suspected abuse or neglect of any minor to a responsible agency.
  • Avoid being alone with just one youth, unless it is your child.
  • Respect the privacy of 4-H members and volunteers when toilets are used, clothes changed, or showers taken.
  • Ensure a check in and out process is in place so participants leave the program as designated. (Bicycle, walking, name of person picking up, etc.)
  • Monitor 4-H members. Two Minnesota 4-H Volunteers must stay in the general area with 4-H members throughout the 4-H educational program, activity or event and remain onsite until all 4-H members have left.
  • Conduct a headcount on a regular basis during the 4-H educational program.
Return to table of contents


Scheduling is particularly important if an accident or incident occurs and evidence is needed to demonstrate that the event was a 4-H program rather than an offering through another group or an informal gathering of friends.

  • A 4-H program must be publicly scheduled and an Extension employee notified.
  • All 4-H programs are considered publicly scheduled when the Extension employee is notified and they are listed on the University of Minnesota county web page, Facebook page, county 4-H calendar or club plan of work.
  • If there is a schedule change the Extension employee must be notified prior to the activity.
  • Schedule changes should be included in the meeting minutes.
Return to table of contents

Medical and emergency planning and procedures

Be prepared for the unexpected.

  • Develop a plan for handling potential emergencies.
  • Share the program plan with the 4-H Program Coordinator to determine if any of the activities require additional accident (event) insurance be purchased to ensure coverage of participants. (Examples: snow tubing and downhill skiing are not covered under the county annual accident insurance policy.)
  • Before a 4-H program begins request the following information from the 4-H Program Coordinator for all 4-H members and keep all information confidential. Once the program is completed, ensure the information is destroyed.
    • Full name and age
    • Emergency contact information
    • Cell phone numbers
    • Health forms
  • Check health form for all 4-H members participating in programs and activities.
    • Work with youth with allergies to help them avoid those items.
    • Inform parents/guardians that they must complete the "Authorization for Giving Medication" if they have a child who will require medication during a 4-H program which the parent/guardian will not be attending.
      • Contact the Program Coordinator to obtain copies of the authorization form.
      • Designate a MN 4-H Volunteer or Extension employee who will be in charge of administering medication.
  • Keep a copy of the 4-H Volunteer Emergency Contact card, provided by the 4-H Program Coordinator, available at all 4-H programs, events, activities and outings.
    • If an emergency occurs, follow all procedures listed on the emergency contact card.
    • If an accident occurs Minnesota 4-H Volunteers should document the incident and work with the 4-H Program Coordinator to complete an incident report. Document the following:
      • Date, time and location the incident occurred.
      • Name, address and phone number of the injured individual.
      • Description - provide detail on the conditions present and how the injury occurred (weather, construction, cleaning, etc.).
      • Extent of injuries.
      • Medical care provided (example: first aid at scene, transported to medical facility, etc.)
      • Names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
  • Ensure that a first aid kit is available at all 4-H programs, activities and outings.
  • When using any indoor or outdoor space, ensure:
    • The space is clean, safe, secure and free of health hazards.
    • The space will accommodate individuals with differing abilities and needs.
    • Clean drinking water, hand washing stations and first aid supplies are available.
Return to table of contents

4-H activities and outings

When making decisions about program activities, it is important to be aware of 1) acceptable activities, 2) activities acceptable when used as part of a 4-H project, 3) activities that are not allowed and 4) activities that are only allowed if conducted by another organization/business.

Acceptable activities

The following activities are ACCEPTABLE to be conducted by a 4-H group for 4-H members. Discuss these activities with the 4-H Program Coordinator to assess the risk, determine suitable safety training and ensure controls are in place to reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries, risks and hazards. See the corresponding information sheet.

  • Campfires, hayrides, parades,
  • Recreational sports: hiking, running, walking
  • Team sports: softball, kickball, broomball, volleyball, etc.
  • Winter activities: ice fishing, skiing (cross country and downhill), snowboarding, sledding/tubing
  • Water activities: fishing, boating, canoeing/kayaking/sail boating, swimming, water balloons
Activities acceptable when part of a 4-H project

The following activities involve various types of motorized vehicles and equipment and are NOT allowed for general group recreational activities, but 4-H members MAY PARTICIPATE in them when they are part of a 4-H project learning or community service activity. Discuss these activities with the 4-H Program Coordinator to assess the risk, determine suitable safety training and ensure controls are in place to reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries, risks and hazards.

  • ATV (All Terrain Vehicles), go carts, motorcycles, snowmobiles, motorboats, tiller, lawnmowers, tractors.
Activities not allowed

The following activities or outings are NOT ALLOWED for club/county recreational activities due to the risk involved, lack of insurance coverage, and/or the lack of an educational purpose as part of the 4-H program.

  • Aviation activities - hang gliders, helicopter rides, hot air balloons, parachuting, private chartered airplanes.
  • Winter related activities - sledding behind a motorized vehicle.
  • Water related activities - jet skiing, parasailing, swimming in pits/quarries, rope swings over water, tubing behind a boat, waterskiing
  • Dunk tanks, bungee jumping, laser tag and paint ball.
  • Construction equipment including skid loaders.
  • NOTE - The following are NOT allowed when used for recreational purposes, but can be used when part of 4-H project work as described above: ATV's, go carts, motorcycles, snowmobiles, motorboats, tiller, push and riding lawnmowers, tractors
Activities only allowed if conducted by another entity

The following activities are only allowed if conducted by another business or organization. Trained instructors must present safety training with all participants. 4-H members are required to wear protective and safety gear at all times while participating, if appropriate. If the organization requires a waiver, contact the 4-H Program Coordinator.

  • Adventure activities - go carts, high ropes, rock climbing, trampolines, zip lines
  • Bonfires (campfires are acceptable; discuss with 4-H Program Coordinator)
  • Bounce Houses
  • Hockey
  • Water related activities - tubing down a river, white water rafting, water parks
Return to table of contents


Facility arrangements must be made in advance of a 4-H program or activity.

  • If a public or private facility requires a contract or certificate of insurance, the Minnesota 4-H Volunteer should notify the 4-H Program Coordinator who will take the next steps.
    • A Minnesota 4-H Volunteer must never sign an agreement/contract on behalf of Minnesota 4-H and the University of Minnesota.
  • If utilizing the residential property of a Minnesota 4-H Volunteer or 4-H family, ensure homeowners are aware they are assuming some risk by hosting the 4-H program/activity on their personal property.
    • Property owners/landlords are required to take reasonable care to protect those attending from any known hazards on the property. A property owner may be liable for an injury if he/she knew, or should have known, of a potentially dangerous condition on the property that could result in unreasonable risk of bodily harm.
Return to table of contents

Room and sleeping arrangements

The University of Minnesota Safety of Minors policy must be followed whenever an overnight stay is part of a 4-H program or activity.

  • Room and sleeping arrangements must meet the following requirements:
    • Adults must sleep in separate rooms from 4-H members, unless parent/child or siblings.
    • 4-H members who are 18 or older must sleep in separate rooms from 4-H members 17 and under, unless siblings.
    • Males and females must sleep in separate rooms, unless parent/child or siblings and the parents and youth have agreed to this arrangement.
    • Adults (anyone 18+) must never share beds with minors (anyone 17 and under).
    • 4-H members that represent a wide range of ages should be housed with 4-H members of similar age.
  • If the sleeping quarters will be a large dormitory space (10 or more), contact the 4-H Program Coordinator to discuss expectations to the above sleeping arrangements.
Return to table of contents


Safe transportation of 4-H members is an important consideration when planning programs, activities and outings.

  • Transportation to and from 4-H programs, activities, outings and events is the responsibility of the family.
    • The University of Minnesota has no oversight or responsibility for family organized transportation, including carpooling arrangements and relies on the drivers' compliance with federal, state and local laws.
    • Liability and accident insurance follows the owner of the vehicle.
  • 4-H organized transportation may be approved in specific circumstances. If organized transportation is needed, consult with the 4-H Program Coordinator to seek approval and ensure policies and rules are followed.
    • If a Minnesota 4-H Volunteer is providing transportation on behalf of the program, this must be within the scope of the role agreed upon between the Program Coordinator and the volunteer.
    • Policies and rules must be followed regarding the leasing and renting of vehicles, chartered buses, and other forms of commercial transportation.
    • Safe driving expectations must be followed.
      • Vans that hold ten or more passengers can NOT be used for transportation.
      • Everyone must use a seat belt. Never have more people in the vehicle than the number of useable seatbelts. Do not allow members to ride in the back of a pickup truck.
      • Texting, receiving or responding to email, or internet use is prohibited under Minnesota state law.
    • The ratio of adults to youth must be followed.
      • Best practice when transporting youth is to ensure that a minimum of two adults and two youth are present in the vehicle at all times.
      • An acceptable alternative and the minimum expectation is one Minnesota 4-H Volunteer and two youth in the vehicle together.
      • One adult to one youth is never allowed as Extension/4-H organized transportation.
  • 4-H members may not use a vehicle for personal reasons while participating in a 4-H program (during or in between organized activities) unless prior arrangements have been made.
  • For 4-H members, written permission from parents/guardians must be granted and the appropriate Day Departure Release Authorization or Housing/Overnight Lodging Release and Authorization form completed and signed as documentation for release of liability. Work with the 4-H Program Coordinator to obtain and complete the appropriate form.
  • To help prevent unauthorized use of vehicles, a recommended practice is to collect the vehicle keys from 4-H members so they are unable to leave the premises without consulting with the Minnesota 4-H Volunteer/4-H Program Coordinator leading the 4-H program. Inventory the keys and return keys to the 4-H member at the close of the 4-H program.
Return to table of contents

Food safety and service

Food that is served to 4-H families and the public requires careful planning to ensure risk is minimized, local training and licensing requirements are met and food is handled safely.

Serving food to the public
  • Learn and practice proper handling, preparation and storage of food items. Access Food safety tips for food event volunteers for practical information and tips.
  • use Reduce the risk for foodborne illness to become aware of potential causes, symptoms and what to do if a foodborne illness occurs.
  • No alcoholic beverages can be available or served at 4-H programs, activities and outings.
  • All food managers must take the online video training Cooking for a Crowd.
  • Obtain a current license if food is served to the public. The license can be obtained through the county or the MN Department of Health.
Serving food or hosting a potluck at a 4-H program.
  • Follow the guidelines provided above regarding proper handling, preparation and storage to ensure the safety of the individuals eating the food.
  • Review MN Statute 157.22 for potluck guidelines.
4-H clubs or federations/councils conducting a bake sale.
  • The Department of Agriculture excludes bake sales from licensure and regulation when the following conditions are met.
    • The bake sale is a community event.
    • The fundraising gross receipts are $5,000 or less in a calendar year.
    • If the food is NOT prepared in a kitchen that is licensed or inspected, 4-H must post a visible sign stating "These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection".
Return to table of contents


  • County 4-H programs purchase annual accident insurance for all 4-H members and Minnesota 4-H Volunteers.
    • Some high risk activities require special event insurance including sledding, snow tubing, snowboarding and downhill skiing.  These are not covered under the county annual accident insurance policy.  Complete the 4-H/CES Activity Report to obtain this special event insurance.  Questions - contact the 4-H Program Coordinator.
  • When the program is appropriately scheduled and supervised, the University of Minnesota general liability insurance provides coverage for bodily injury or property damage to third parties for which the Minnesota 4-H is legally responsible.
  • The University of Minnesota professional liability insurance provides coverage for Minnesota 4-H Volunteers for legal liability when acting within the scope of their role on behalf of Minnesota 4-H.
  • Automobile insurance always follows the owner of the vehicle. The University of Minnesota automobile liability insurance provides coverage for third-party bodily injury or property damage in a claim arising from the ownership or use of vehicles the University owns, leases, hires, rents or borrows.
Return to table of contents

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy