Engaging With Volunteers: What Are Your Health and Safety Obligations?

As the 20th of June marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week this year, it’s a good time to brush up on your health and safety obligations when engaging with volunteers. There is often uncertainty on what an organisation’s legal duties are. The key question is, are volunteers treated the same as employees or not?

The Healthy and Safety at Work Act 2015 is the primary legislation that governs health and safety in NZ. Only PCBUs who engage with volunteers have duties under the HSWA. Thus, you first you must determine whether you are a PCBU by following the WorkSafe diagram below:

The HSWA clearly outlines that volunteer-involving PCBUs are primarily responsible for the health and safety of all their volunteer workers. The primary duty of care is a broad overarching duty. According to WorkSafe NZ, it includes but is not limited to providing:

  • a work environment that is free from risks to health and safety
  • safe equipment, structures and systems of work
  • provision for safe use, handling, and storage of plant, substances, and structures
  • adequate and accessible welfare facilities
  • the necessary information, training, instruction, or supervision to do the work safely
  • monitoring of worker health and workplace exposures to assess effectiveness of controls (more).

Volunteers are no different from paid workers and thus, their health and safety is just as important to prioritise. Click here to read more about the role of both organisations and volunteers under the Act.

Remember, volunteers also have the same health and safety responsibilities as other employees in the organisation. They must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and ensure their actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others (more).

Working Wise offers support and consultancy around managing the health and safety of your volunteers. To find out more, contact us now!

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