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If you use volunteers, you have a duty to protect them

If you have at least one employee, you will be aware that you have a duty to protect them from any risks arising from your activities, and this includes any volunteers you may use from time to time.

With thanks to our partners Stallard Kane risk management specialists.

This means that you must include any volunteers or volunteer activity in your risk assessments. That is to say that you should provide the same level of protection to volunteers where they carry out similar activities and are exposed to the same level of risk as employees.

It’s prudent to advise your employers’ liability insurers about your volunteers and their activities.

Does health and safety law apply to all types of volunteers?

No. Usually, it does not apply if there is not an actual ’employer’, but there are some exceptions:

  • If a volunteer is in control of non-domestic premises, such as a village or community hall
  • If a volunteer procures or controls construction work, e.g. if a village hall committee employs a builder to carry out renovation work

However, even if health and safety law does not apply to your volunteers, you may still have duties under civil law.

Under the common law, voluntary organisations and individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities. Where something goes wrong, individuals may, in some cases, sue for damages using the civil law if they are injured as a result of another person's negligence.

You can find more information from HSE on criminal and civil law which will help you manage this risk, or from Citizens Advice.

Risk assessments

Many of the activities carried out by volunteers will be low risk. However, volunteers may also be involved in higher-risk activities, such as:


Where the risk is higher, your risk assessment should be proportionate and consider the additional hazards that volunteers and employees may be exposed to. Please contact your insurance adviser at Partners&, or the Stallard Kane health and safety team for more guidance.


Good factors to consider if you engage volunteers are:

  • Plan and prepare your activity effectively so you know how volunteers will be deployed
  • Make sure your volunteers are covered by your insurance policy
  • Match the task to the individual by checking they have the capability to do the activity
  • Make sure effective supervision and monitoring arrangements are in place
  • Make sure accidents and near misses involving volunteers are recorded and followed up


Volunteers must also be provided with the right training and instruction to carry out specific tasks or use equipment (and remember to ensure that all equipment is well maintained and stored properly).

What about reporting accidents involving volunteers?

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) require the responsible person to report certain incidents involving employees or those affected by their work activity, including members of the public and volunteers.

Fatal incidents involving volunteers are always reportable (except where they involve road traffic accidents).


Non-fatal incidents involving volunteers are only reportable where:

  • the accident arose from a work-related activity
  • the injured person was taken directly from the scene of the incident to hospital for treatment


Examinations and tests do not qualify as ‘treatment’ and there is no need to report incidents where people are only taken to hospital as a precaution.

Incidents involving volunteers where there is no work activity, or no employer organisation, are not normally reportable. The requirement to report over-7-day injuries only applies to employees, not volunteers.

If you engage volunteers and need help with risk assessments, accident reporting, training or anything else, please contact your adviser at Partners& or Stallard Kane’s health and safety team on 01427 420 402 or email healthandsafety@skaltd.co.uk.