micro volunteering – risk assessments

Someone asked the question about risk assessments and health and safety for volunteering from home, so I thought I would have a go at answering it.

The very short answer is that there is no comprehensive answer to this, of course as decent people we feel some kind of moral obligation to ensure the safety of people we engage with whether paid or volunteering.

The more complex answer is that it depends on the nature of your organisation and the work that you do, and what expectations your organisation as well as any external stakeholders may have.

Certainly as a line manager of people paid staff working from home one of the expectations of me was that I would carry out a health and safety assessment each year. What comfort our insurers got from that I cannot guess, of course as soon as I left his house he could have moved things around and had trailing wires everywhere and I would have been none the wiser – BUT the organisation’s back was covered.

And that is of course the cynical point about risk assessments and health and safety and insurance.

One responsibility of the volunteer co-ordinator/manager is to protect the organisation and there are certainly steps you can take to ensure that this is done. You can have a checklist of what a safe working environment is, and ask the volunteer to send you a filled in copy, you can have handouts giving advice for example about the length of time looking at a computer screen, how often to take breaks and move around, anything that may be a health and safety risk and how that risk can be minimised. You can make sure that the volunteer has read and understood that information and get a signature from them confirming that, keep it on file and update it yearly.

That should satisfy your organisation’s insurers, and hopefully would be able to be done quite easily with the help of several others from within your organisation.

Hope that is helpful.

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