Don’t Let Your Volunteers Cost You a Fortune!

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Volunteers are vital members of many Clubs, undertaking valuable tasks that make the venue a better place. By definition, a person is a volunteer if they undertake work for an organisation without being paid a wage or salary.
But did you know that under the WHS Act, volunteers are considered to be workers, and as such, the organisation has the same responsibilities and obligations to volunteers as it does for its paid employees. This includes:

  • Duty of care to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees at work
  • Providing and maintaining a safe work environment
  • Providing and maintaining safe plant, structure, equipment and systems of work
  • Providing workers with information, training, instruction and supervision
  • Monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace.

This also means that your volunteers have responsibilities under the WHS Act as well, including taking reasonable care for their own health and safety (and that of others), and cooperating with reasonable instructions given by the organisation.
It is important to note that volunteers are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

The following example highlights the serious implications that could result, if the right WHS risk management and controls are not in place.

In 2020, a small Bowls Club in Tasmania was sued by a volunteer for serious burns incurred while cooking sausages at a barefoot bowls night. That fine was $1 million. The Club appealed the fine and lost. The Club was found to have not provided adequate instruction to the volunteer and didn’t provide any PPE for handling hot objects. The BBQ was found to be unmaintained and not suitable for a workplace, with just a ceramic mug being used to catch hot fat from the BBQ tray. The mug overflowed and caught fire. The volunteer tried to remove the mug, however the hot fat spilled onto his hand, causing severe burns.

What does this mean for Clubs with volunteers

  • Ensure your volunteers are registered with the Club (name, address, phone, next of kin, medical information where relevant, skills and training).
  • Have an induction program for volunteers and record who attends.
  • Ensure there are Safe Work Procedures for the tasks volunteers are being asked to carry out.
  • Provide training on the Procedures to the volunteers, and ongoing supervision while they are working.
  • Undertake regular workplace inspections, with items needing to be fixed being documented and made safe as soon as possible.
  • Have a set task list suitable for volunteers and their skill set.
  • Volunteers are not to operate equipment or machinery unless expressly permitted to do so and have the correct qualifications and licence where required.

If you have any questions, or would like to implement a Volunteers Safety Package into your Club, please get in touch with Michelle Bates, Safety & Compliance Advisor.

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Paul Stephenson

Group General Manager & Senior Consultant Paul is the Group General Manager at DWS Hospitality Specialists who brings with him 20 years of management and

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