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Off-Campus Activities – Use of Informed Consent and Waiver Agreements

General insurance coverage details and applications for field research activities as well as additional information are available at www.insurance-risk-mgmt.utoronto.ca/Insurance.htm .

While the University insures its own employees and its own property and field research activities, the University’s insurance policies are not meant to cover an individual’s personal property and non-academic or external program activities involving participants off-campus and it is always recommended to confirm insurance particulars beforehand.

One of the most important considerations when planning field activities is when to use liability waivers. These are referred in various ways, but the basic idea is to advise and inform participants to be aware of the risk environment and to take suitable precautions. The following is an overview with examples.

Informed Consent and Waiver Agreements

We recommend using suitably drafted agreements to minimize the University’s liability risk exposure when engaging in certain types of activities. Generally, students taking regular classes on campus or participating in normal campus activities need not sign waivers. But a department that sponsors activities that go beyond regular academic requirements should consider using a waiver to reduce the University’s legal liability risk, especially for activities where participants will be exposed to different risk environments than they may be used to in their everyday experience.

Waivers are strongly recommended for any activity that presents a higher than normal risk of physical danger, including transportation risks, as well as health, safety, environmental, political or social conditions that may be present in off-campus or out of country activities that participants may encounter. There is a positive duty on the University to inform participants as much as practicable about risks they will be facing in the places they will be visiting. This is legally termed “due diligence”.

To be legally binding and enforceable, waivers need to be customized to the specific activities or situations to which they pertain rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They should be as clear and comprehensive as is reasonable in the circumstances.  Everyone is required to sign the same waiver for the same event and if a person does not sign the waiver, they should not be allowed to participate.

Any activity for which a waiver is required should be described as accurately and completely as practical. Waivers should be on departmental letterhead, include class/program, date, brief description of the activity, the destination, transportation, accommodation, number of participants, etc. Waivers should be legibly formatted and not buried in fine print. They should be on a separate page and understandable so there no question in the participant’s mind about what they are signing.

For illustration purposes, a number of examples of such forms and formats are accessible as follows:
A.    GENERAL
This form covers the essentials but is generic in nature so should be used for ordinary applications or where participants are familiar with the activities, such as the Hart House Underwater Club where members are already highly skilled and experienced so the waiver is a general warning and the University accepts liability arising from its own negligence.

Informed Consent & Waiver Form (Generic)
Hart House Underwater Club Member Waiver
B.    VOLUNTARY TRIPS
This type of form, to the level of detail needed, covers situations where participants are voluntarily engaging in activities that require awareness, information and preparation for the intended trip, whether out of country or just off campus. In addition, divisions would normally conduct orientation sessions or provide written and/or verbal materials to participants to prepare them for their experience. Since this is a voluntary activity, the liability language in the waiver is 100% exculpatory. Three examples are provided, for an international trip and for local trips by divisions where the expected knowledge of the participants requires a high level of detail to be included.

Consent Form & Release for International Programs
Student Family Housing Trip Waiver
Trip Waiver & Consent
C.    STUDENT ORGANIZATION EVENTS (ON UofT PREMISES)
When students, either through some type of organization or individually, want to hold events on campus, the University provides premises and other resources, but we do not cover the student(s) organizers for liability so they often decide to require participants to sign waivers. Two examples are provided and in each case, the waiver is comprehensive and an absolute bar against liability and is presented on suitable event letterhead, not on University stationary.

Pharmacy Student Event Waiver

Rotman School MBA Event Waiver
D.    HIGH RISK - UofT SPONSORED or LINKED ACTIVITIES
The Department of Physics recently partnered with an agency of the federal government (CANDAC) to take a group of high school students and their teachers to the Arctic for an extended time. As an intense, high risk, under-age, non-UT student trip, the degree of due diligence needed was at the highest level and the sign-off materials developed for this trip are provided for information and reference purposes. This illustrates the most comprehensive approach.

Consent Form & Release from Liability
Media Use Permission Form
Participant Medical Information Form
Student Code of Conduct
Teacher Code of Conduct