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Zoe Mackenzie

Operations Manager

How can you protect your volunteers?

During National Volunteers Week we’re celebrating volunteers and thanking them for the wonderful contributions they make to our communities, and at Armour we’re also looking at the key Health & Safety responsibilities of organisations who engage volunteers.

In September 2021 an Anglers Association in England was fined £66,000 after admitting to breaching Health & Safety Laws which lead to the death of a 71-year-old volunteer in 2019. The volunteer was part of group of volunteers who were clearing vegetation using a chainsaw alongside a river when he was struck on the head by a falling branch. An investigation determined that:

  • the organisation had failed to follow their own policies in regard to risk assessments;
  • an exclusion zone around the tree felling was not set up;
  • guidance from ‘The Angling Trust’ had been ignored

A senior technical officer who worked on this case summed it up well “this incident also highlights an important message: don’t think relying on the goodwill of volunteers is an alternative to having proper training and procedures in place.”

Organisations must include volunteers in their standard risk assessments and consider the activities and tasks that volunteers are doing and the risks and hazards these might expose them to – for example:

  • Slips and Trips – are there going to be any hazards that could lead to a slip or trip? Examples can include tripping over boxes or cables, sliding in a puddle of spilt tea, or a muddy puddle outside?
  • Manual Handling – are they pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or lifting a load?
  • Working At Height – this includes using a step stool or a ladder to hang bunting or pictures
  • Lone Working and Violence – if they’re spending time with a Service User then that counts as Lone Working. Another example is interacting with the public to raise funds, are they alone at any point?

RIDDOR – when do I need to report?

When an accident involves a volunteer and arose from a work-related activity it is only required to be reported if:

the incident resulted in a fatality

or

the injured person was taken directly from the scene of the incident to hospital for treatment

In all cases of accidents and incidents, organisations should be following their policies on accident reporting and carrying out an investigation into the cause to prevent it happening again.

If the above is making you feel out of your depth, then not to worry – our clients can give their dedicated Consultant a call directly.

Not a client yet? Contact us to arrange a chat about how we can help.

Our content is correct at the date of publishing, but should not be taken as legal advice, and our articles don’t replace Risk Assessments. Armour will not be held accountable for any legal actions the reader may take.