Volunteers: Your health and safety

What employers must do

If you volunteer for an organisation which has at least one employee working for them, they will have specific duties to protect you.

Our guidance for employers includes advice on:

  • when health and safety law applies to volunteers
  • when other laws may apply
  • how to manage any risks that specifically apply to your volunteers
  • when to report any incidents involving volunteers

There is also specific advice on following activities that volunteers do:

What you must do

You must take care of your own health and safety and that of others who may be harmed by your actions while volunteering, in the same way as employees do.

You must cooperate with your organisation and other employees and volunteers to help everyone meet their duties under the law.

You should not do anything to interfere with or misuse equipment provided for reasons of health, safety and welfare eg fire extinguishers, life vests etc.

How to raise any concerns

If you're concerned about health and safety risks to you as a volunteer, talk to:

  • your organisation
  • a manager or supervisor
  • a health and safety representative

When health and safety law does not apply

If you carry out volunteering, either as an individual or as part of a community group that has no employees then health and safety law will not normally apply to you, unless you control and provide access to a non-domestic premises such as a village or community hall.

However, you should still carry out your role safely and follow any local government guidelines. For example, a community group of volunteers doing a litter-picking exercise should check with their local authority if there are any restrictions, such as avoiding public highways.

The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum guidance on Safe cleansing on the highway (WASTE 24) provides further information on this topic.

When civil law applies

Under the common law, voluntary organisations and individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities. In some cases, people may sue you for damages using the civil law if they are injured as a result of negligence, for example a volunteer injuring a passer-by with a falling branch while carrying out tree maintenance.

You can find more information from: