An organization that uses volunteers is responsible for ensuring that each person is able to perform their volunteer duties safely. To be effective, safety training for volunteers must be provided before an individual begins work and must be updated whenever their duties, or the environment they work in, changes.
Orientation safety training for volunteers should include 5 key elements:
- Information about the organization’s health and safety policies and practices,
- Identification of any hazards they may be exposed to,
- Training to reduce the risks associated with each identified hazard,
- Training in the safe use of any required tools, machinery, or personal protective equipment, and
- Clear information about how to report unsafe behaviours or situations, and who to speak with about health and safety concerns.
While some volunteer activities may be “safer” than others, it is virtually impossible to create an environment that is 100% hazard free. Common types of hazards include:
- Biological hazards, like exposure to contagious diseases
- Chemical hazards, like cleaners, paints, solvents, etc. that may be poisonous, explosive, flammable, or reactive with other products
- Ergonomic hazards, like improperly set up work areas
- Physical hazards, including exposure to electricity, loud noise, or extreme temperatures
- Safety hazards related to the improper use, or malfunctions, of equipment or tools
- Psychological hazards, like stress
- Violence hazards, associated with things like working the public, working alone, or carrying cash
Depending on the type of volunteer work an individual will be doing, they may require hazard-specific training in some areas. This may include training in areas like:
- WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System)
- First Aid
- Emergency response
- Fire safety
- Infection control
- Safe use of equipment, machinery, and other devices
- Workplace violence prevention
- Working alone safely
Each volunteer needs to know exactly what they are being asked to do, how they are being asked to do it, and where the task will be performed.
Ideally, the organization should provide them with a detailed, written Volunteer Job Description. Duties that are clearly described are more likely to come with clear safety rules and procedures.
There are more than 150,000 registered charities and non-profits currently operating in Canada and more than 47% of Canadians participate in some form of volunteer work. Like paid workers, each volunteer must be protected from harm. The priority of every organization should be to ensure that volunteers go home safely at the end of each day!
Article written by Kim Scaravelli, CEO, Trust Communications Inc.
We are Instructional Design and Digital Content Specialists. We have created 200+ customized online and blended learning programs for companies and non-profit organizations across Canada.
Curious about how to train volunteers effectively? If you would like to talk about your organization’s training needs, email us.