Health and Safety for your Volunteers

Our Health and Safety experts share new advice on keeping your volunteers safe in this short blog from the People & Safety Services team.

There has been updated guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regarding volunteers in the workplace. These changes will affect many organisations, so we’ve summarised them below to help you think about how they affect your organisation.

First, why are volunteers different from other staff? Health and Safety (H&S) laws apply to the Employer to Employee relationship, and as such, volunteers may not be covered by certain aspects. They may, however, be protected by civil law. This link from HSE will help you understand which type of law applies to you.

Volunteering involves a range of activities with different levels of risk, and often, volunteer activities will be low-risk. Still, there have been fatalities and significant injuries involving volunteers engaged in those considered higher-risk, such as working at height or using machinery.

Newly updated guidance covers the types of activity where there could be higher risks to volunteers, and there are examples of how to manage the risks to protect volunteers.

You can find advice on the following specific areas:

Risk assessment matrix table paperwork with severity level colours for Low, Medium and High

Protecting your volunteers

There is separate advice for volunteers, including their rights and responsibilities under health and safety law.

If an organisation has at least one employee, or if the person running the organisation is self-employed and employs others, you will have duties under health and safety law. This means you must protect your employees and others, including volunteers, from any risks arising from your work activities.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) protects employees and others who may be affected by work activities. This includes those volunteering for or on behalf of your organisation. It is enforced by HSE or the local authorities, depending on the location and type of the activity.

You must include volunteers and employees in your risk assessment to identify significant risks and implement effective control measures. Volunteers should receive the same protection when they carry out similar activities and are exposed to the same level of risk as employees.

You will find further information on our Health and Safety Service pages:

Health & Safety Service


Our People and Safety Team can offer advice for your organisation including your Health and Safety, Wellbeing, HR and Recruitment. Please get in touch with us at to speak to a member of the team.

Read more news and advice from the People & Safety team >>

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