Employees require insurance, as do volunteers!
This means that you must include any volunteers or volunteer activity in your risk assessments. You should provide the same level of protection to volunteers, where they carry out similar activities and are exposed to the same level of risk, as employees.
Does health and safety law apply to volunteers?
No. However, even if health and safety law does not apply to your volunteers, you may still have duties under civil law.
HSE puts it like this: Under the common law, voluntary organisations and individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities. Where something goes wrong, individuals may, in some cases, sue for damages using the civil law if they are injured as a result of another person’s negligence.
How to make a risk assessment for volunteers
Many of the activities carried out by volunteers will be low risk. However, volunteers may also be involved in higher-risk activities, such as:
- working at height (e.g. putting up bunting and banners)
- demolition and/or construction
- using machinery
- lone working
Where the risk is higher, your risk assessment should be proportionate and consider the additional hazards that volunteers and employees may be exposed to. For more information regarding risk assessments, see our risk assessment checklist.
Good tips to consider when engaging volunteers:
- Plan and prepare your activity effectively so you know how volunteers will be deployed
- Make sure your volunteers are covered by your insurance policy
- Match the task to the individual by checking they have the capability to do the activity
- Make sure effective supervision and monitoring arrangements are in place
- Make sure accidents and near misses involving volunteers are recorded and followed up
Volunteers must also be provided with the right training and instruction to carry out specific tasks or use equipment (and remember to ensure that all equipment is well maintained and stored properly).
Should I report accidents involving volunteers?
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) require the responsible person to report certain incidents involving employees or those affected by their work activity, including members of the public and volunteers.
Fatal incidents involving volunteers are always reportable (except where they involve road traffic accidents). Non-fatal incidents involving volunteers are only reportable where:
- the accident arose from a work-related activity
- the injured person was taken directly from the scene of the incident to hospital for treatment
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