In 2012 Australia “harmonised” its Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) laws. This essentially means that within an organisation, WHS laws designed to keep people safe at work now apply to both paid employees and volunteers.
The legislation applies to organisations that have at least one paid worker (although all organisations have a common law duty to volunteers). It includes ensuring that volunteers have a safe and healthy place to work and are protected from harassment, bullying and other forms of harm or mistreatment.
A two-way street: volunteer responsibilities
Church volunteers however also have a responsibility to work safely and not do things that increase the risk of harm to themselves or others. This includes:
- taking reasonable care of their own health and safety;
- performing their duties safely;
- taking reasonable care not to negatively affect the health and safety of others;
- following workplace instructions and cooperating with safe church policies and practices;
- not performing activities they are not qualified or skilled to undertake;
- driving safely and obeying road rules while volunteering;
- using safety and personal protective equipment where appropriate; and
- reporting any health and safety hazards they come across.
While it’s almost unheard of that a volunteer in Australia has been prosecuted under the WHS Act for endangering themselves or others, the possibility still exists. Providing volunteers are following the guidelines for health and safety however, it’s extremely unlikely they will be fined or prosecuted.
Training your volunteers
It’s important to ensure your volunteers are adequately trained in health and safety requirements as well as in how to perform their duties.
At CCI we provide LinkSafe health & safety training modules free of charge to all insured members. This includes our volunteers induction online training program, which provides basic awareness training on safety, WHS requirements, and emergency and safe work procedures. The induction can be undertaken by Risk Management Officers, church leaders, ministers, staff, volunteers and contractors. Go to our training page for more information or to get started.
We also provide free membership to the ChildSafe program, which offers resources and training to help churches and community groups become safer places for children and young people. Our previous post has more detail on this.
Membership to the RLink/RedBook program is also offered to all our churches free of charge. RedBook has helped over 1,000 churches so far meet their safety and compliance requirements by providing training and resources that streamline the process.
As an insured member you can also speak to our team at CCI to assist you in developing solid safety and risk management programs for your church.
Insurance cover for your volunteers
Workers’ Compensation Insurance does not provide cover for volunteers. This means you need to financially protect them through other types of cover.
Our Personal Accident Insurance for Volunteers provides cover for volunteers while performing voluntary duties for your church. Speak to our team to find out more about securing a policy for your volunteers.
Safe Work Australia – Essential Guide to WHS for Volunteers
CCI – all articles on Healthy Workplaces.
Written by Tess OliverTags: health & safety, volunteers