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13th May 2016

Health & Safety and the Volunteer

Volunteer week is on its way and is a celebration of all the good work done by over 21 million volunteers in the UK. The week will commence on the 1st June and continue until the 12th June 2016. Everywhere events are in the planning stages to celebrate the achievements of the positive contributions of all volunteers.

The work the volunteer does creates a positive impact on the economy which is enormous both financially and socially. It is estimated that £23.9bn is added to the UK economy every year due to the work carried out by volunteers. The work carried out by volunteers in all sectors of society has a positive impact on all aspects of life. A volunteer can be found at all stages of life from the birth of a child through their life. Some of the sector where volunteers are found are:

  • In the educational systems - Volunteers are found in schools supporting the educational system in all areas from helping children with learning to making children lunches in the school canteen;
  • In the healthcare sectors – supporting the care of different individuals who will with different complex medical issues;
  • Transport system - helping children to safely cross roads.

We have all been honoured to meet such wonderful people who give up their time to do something that will have an impact on the life of another person. I am delighted that there is a week to celebrate their achievements and roles in society. This blog reviews the health and safety management of the volunteer role.

Does health and safety regulations apply?

So a question sometimes asked is – as a voluntary organisation does health and safety regulations apply? The answer is yes.

As per the advice on the HSE website – ‘The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) and the regulations made under it apply if any organisation (including a voluntary organisation) has at least one employee’. So it follows that all other regulations that are applicable to the organisation will also apply. To ensure that as an employer you meet your legal obligations include the role of the volunteer in the development of policies and procedures and the implementation and management of health and safety. In other words, if the volunteer is carrying out the same manual handling work activities as the employees then both should attend the manual handling training. When conducting risk assessments ensure that the role of the volunteers is assessed and included. Ensure volunteers complete documentation in the same way as an employee is required to for the same duties. An example of this is an induction. The employee completes an induction once they join the organisation. This induction process should also extend to the volunteer as they also need to know for example who the first aiders are and the fire emergency procedures.

Organisation who are not voluntary but where a volunteer may work need to ensure their activities do not put the volunteer at risk of injury. As per the advice on the HSE website – The Health and Safety at Work Act also requires employers (and the self-employed) to protect the health and safety of other people, such as members of the public and volunteers, who may be affected by their work activities.’ The organisation will need to assess through the risk assessment process if volunteers could be hurt by the organisations activities.


  • Review and ensure that all your policies cover the role of the volunteer.
  • Ensure they receive adequate instruction, information and training.
  • Ensure they receive any personal protective equipment such as high visibility vests.
  • Ensure they are inducted into the area where they work and know the fire emergency procedures, first aiders, location rules, welfare facilities etc.
  • Ensure that documentation where relevant is completed.

Always treat the health and safety management of the volunteer in the same way you would an employee. They are providing your organisation with a valuable contribution – their time, skills, experience and knowledge. Ensure their health and safety needs are met so they are not put at risk of an injury in the same way you would an employee.

We all look forward to the volunteer week celebrations and reflect on the years of support that they have provided to all our lives.

QCS Policies and Procedures

QCS have guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of health and safety.


Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor

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