Health and Safety obligations for members of charity or volunteer organisations

It is important for Board Members or Trustees helping to run a charity or a volunteer organisation to know where their obligations begin and end under the new workplace health and safety law, which comes into effect on Monday 4 April 2016. 

A "volunteer association" cannot be prosecuted for a health and safety breach under the new law. A volunteer association is defined as a group of volunteers working together for a community purpose where none of the volunteers employs any person to carry out work for the volunteer association.

If your volunteer or charity organisation does not have employees it will be exempt. If the organisation employs people then it will have health and safety duties under the new Act.

Volunteer trustees and volunteer board members of a charity or volunteer organisation who employ someone (a ‘worker’) will be classed as "Officers" under the law. As a result they will have the same duties as company directors or CEOs and must have knowledge of organisational health and safety matters. They cannot, however, be prosecuted for breaching their duties which will effectively make these duties a set of guidelines for volunteer Officers.  Similarly, if you engage contractors and not employees, your organisation and members, including trustees and volunteer board members, will be exempt from prosecution.

Casual volunteers who help out every so often such as parishioners on the second hand book stand at the annual church fair will also fall under the exemption. However volunteer workers who are integral to the operations of the organisation and who regularly work on an ongoing basis will be owed the same duties as employees such as a safe work environment and training.

Overall, the intention of the new legislation in regards to our volunteer sector is for volunteers, trustees and volunteer board members to carry on the good work they do for our communities.

If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us.