For organisations covered by the work health and safety laws, volunteers have the same rights and responsibilities as other workers. This includes emergency service volunteer organisations.
If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must:
- provide your volunteers with a safe working environment
- consult with them on work health and safety matters
- provide them with the information, training and supervision they need to work safely.
If you engage volunteers to work in their own homes, you must still talk to them about health and safety. You can:
- give them information on how to set up a safe works area
- make sure they have the equipment they need.
If you engage volunteers to work in someone else’s home, find out and tell them if there are specific hazards, such as dogs in the yard or steep stairs. It’s not a requirement that two volunteers go to a home together, but you may decide this is a good way to ensure your volunteer’s safety.
If you’re a volunteer, you must
- take reasonable care for your own health and safety, and that of others
- carry out your tasks in a safe way
- follow the reasonable safety instructions given to you by the organisation you volunteer for
- co-operate with the reasonable safety policies and procedures of the organisation you volunteer for.
If you’re a volunteer working from your own home, you still need to work safely. While this means your organisation has limited ability to ensure your safety, it can:
- give you information on how to set up a safe work area
- make sure you have the equipment you need.
If you’re a volunteer working in someone else’s home, your organisation should find out and tell you if there are any specific hazards, such as dogs in the yard or steep stairs. It’s not a requirement that two volunteers go to a home together, but your employer may decide this is a good way to ensure your safety.
Volunteers may sit on the board of an organisation or be in another role where they make (or participate in making) decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the organisation they volunteer for. Their decisions may also have the capacity to significantly affect the organisation’s financial standing.
Only if a volunteer makes (or participates in making) these kinds of decisions are they are an ‘officer’ under the work health and safety laws.
If you are an officer who is a volunteer, you must comply with WHS duties.
You cannot be prosecuted for an offence as an officer, except if you do not comply with your duties as a worker or 'other persons at the workplace'.
Resources and solutions
Safe Work Australia has a safety resource kit especially for volunteers.
This resource will help volunteers and organisations who engage them understand the health and safety laws. It includes:
- a guide for volunteers
- a guide for organisations that engage volunteers
- a fact sheet
- a PowerPoint presentation and podcast.