A waiver is a legal contract between an adult individual participant attending a program or event and the organization delivering that program or event, and can be a valuable risk management tool to help limit the organization's liability. Insurance & Risk Assessment is responsible for assisting University of Alberta faculties, department, and administrative units with the development and administration of waivers and informed consents. Waivers should NEVER BE ALTERED without the express written permission of Insurance & Risk Assessment (refer to this list for departments with permission). No external group or third party except a Registered University of Alberta Student Group can be included in the waiver.

Please note that Insurance & Risk Assessment does not issue waivers for:

  • Personal activities (i.e. any activity not organized by, related to and approved by the University).
  • Registered Student Groups - submit an event to BearsDen as early as possible before the activity, and the Student Event Risk Management Coordinator will assist.
  • Matters governed by a more formal agreement between the University and an external organization or service provider (eg. service contracts or student placement agreements).

The following guidelines will help the university community understand our institutional approach to waivers and provide staff with important information about how to obtain and manage waivers on behalf of the University of Alberta. Faculty and staff may download the complete set of guidelines in PDF format (you must be signed in through your UAlberta Google account to access them) and/or view the FAQs below.

Waivers are intended for use only when participants are voluntarily participating in an activity outside of their work as University staff or students. Staff and students participating in high-risk mandatory activities for class credit or research may be required to sign an informed consent rather than a waiver, in order to ensure they understand their coverage and responsibilities during personal time versus work time.


What is a waiver?

A Waiver and Release of Liability form is an intentional and voluntary contract between a participant and an organization that asks participants to take responsibility for their own actions and assume the risks when they voluntarily participate in a program or event.

The participant's signature on the waiver creates a binding contract whereby the participant agrees that they understand the risks of the activity and voluntarily assume the associated liability. For waivers to be upheld they need to be properly constructed and implemented, and the way they are administered will be considered.

Why do we need waivers?

An appropriately worded and effectively executed waiver can offer the university protection from legal liability and reduce the exposures to claims by third parties. It is also an effective way to inform participants of the risks they may be exposed to when they participate in voluntary activities so they can make an informed choice about whether to participate.

When do we need waivers?

Examples of activities organized by the University of Alberta requiring waivers:

  • Recreational trips such as ski trips or hiking trips
  • Travel for overnight trips and/or trips outside of Alberta
  • Events involving physical activities such as wall climbing or water sports
  • Campus & Community Recreation programs
  • Activities including extraordinary exposures
  • Visitors to campus working on their own research in high-risk settings such as laboratories
  • Note: Sometimes students and staff will be required to sign an informed consent rather than a waiver if the activity is required by their studies or research

If you are not sure whether you need a waiver, please feel free to contact Insurance & Risk Assessment or submit a Waiver Request Form and we can work with you to determine the best risk management tools for your activity.

Who should sign waivers?

Only an individual participant should sign a waiver. An individual should NOT sign a waiver on behalf of a group of people.

A participant must be 18 years or older to sign a waiver. Please see information about informed consents if minors will be participating in the planned activity.

A witness should also sign the waiver in case we ever need to prove that the participant did, in fact, sign the form. Whenever possible, the witness should be a university representative and should be available to answer any questions the participant has about the waiver before signing. When the witness is not a university representative, it is important that they are not an immediate family member of the participant. Please see What To Do With Waivers and Informed Consents for more specific information about witnesses.

Waivers should NOT be signed by:

  1. Staff who are performing mandatory job duties.
  2. Minors
  3. Someone who is intoxicated and/or, by law, does not have the mental capacity to sign a contract.
How do we get a waiver for our program or event?

Registered Student Groups should submit their event to BearsDen as early as possible before the activity, and the Student Event Risk Management Coordinator will assist with waivers.

Faculties, departments, or administrative units should take the following steps:

1. For off-campus activities including international travel, please use the Off-Campus Activity & Travel Planning Tool to complete a risk assessment of your trip before submitting the waiver request form. Please submit your request at least 1 month in advance of the trip, if possible.

2. If your event involves alcohol service, please complete the Alcohol Event Application and Insurance & Risk Assessment will work with you to determine whether you need waivers in addition to alcohol event approval.

3. For all other activities, complete the Waiver Request Form at least 15 business days prior to your event. This Google form will capture all waiver requests and we will use the information collected for better communication with stakeholders, quality assurance, and oversight of waiver usage.

4. You can expect a response from Insurance & Risk Assessment within 1 week.

5. If your faculty, department, or administrative unit frequently issues waivers for the same activity or program, please contact Insurance & Risk Assessment and we will work with you to develop your own templates for use.

How often do we need waivers?

In short, every time you run a new program or event.

The Assumption of Risks section of a waiver needs to be different depending on the activity for a court to consider the waiver valid. This means that a waiver should be tailored as much as possible to each event, program, or trip, in order to cover all of the risks associated with a specific combination of activities.

A waiver has a maximum "usage" of one year. For example, if you have a waiver for a drop-in activity that goes throughout the year, you are required to set up a system to ensure that each participant signs a new waiver at least once a year.

If you change any activities in the drop-in program or add activities that were not originally considered when the waiver was built, you must contact Insurance & Risk Assessment or use the request form to request an updated waiver. Once completed, all participants must sign the new waiver.

If your faculty, department, or administrative unit has your own templates for use, you must contact Insurance & Risk Assessment to have your waiver updated any time you change the type of activity, location, or type of participants in your program. The only information you should ever change on a waiver template is the activity date and name.

How do we administer the waiver?

Courts have found that the way the waiver is explained and administered by the organization is as important as the composition of the document when determining whether the participant had sufficient notice and information about the risks associated with the activity.

We have developed guidelines to give faculties, departments, and administrative units the "dos and don'ts" of distributing, collecting, and storing waivers. Once you have your waiver drafted by Insurance & Risk Assessment, please see What To Do With Waivers and Informed Consents for more specific information about the university's procedures (you must be signed in through your UAlberta Google account to access this document).

Registered Student Groups will receive a different version of this document from the Student Event Risk Management Coordinator once their event has been approved through BearsDen.

How long should we keep signed waivers on file?

Signed waivers should be kept on file for 10 years in an organized filing system that would allow you to find them by activity date and/or event name, if required. Please consult What To Do with Waivers and Informed Consents for more information and tips on retention and storage (you must be signed in through your UAlberta Google account to access this document).

Please consult the Information & Privacy Office's website for information about reasonable security arrangements for safeguarding these files, since they contain personal information.

Request a Waiver