Do you give your time to a canoe club? Chances are you’ve thought about whether you could get sued for something – in today’s litigious society and with health and safety fears (not to mention ambulance-chasing lawyers) everywhere, it’s no wonder.
Recognising this, the independent charity Volunteering England has published a new code for those working in an unpaid/voluntary capacity in clubs and other organisations.
Many people volunteer informally, helping out neighbours and supporting the community. This code provides some basic guidance for individuals on staying safe and avoiding risk.
Volunteering is not a generally risky activity. Even though individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities, people are hardly ever held liable for any consequences due to well-intentioned voluntary acts.
Of course, more things can go wrong if you’re cutting down trees or taking a group hiking than if you’re collecting donations on the high street. But whatever you’re doing, if you take the time to consider a few simple guidelines you can reduce the risk significantly.
The key principles are as follows:
- Take care in whatever you do. As long as you act reasonably and take this guidance into account you are very unlikely to put yourself at risk of litigation.
- Think about your safety and the safety of others around you. Before you do anything it’s a good idea to take some time to think about the risks it could pose to you and others. If there is a risk, think about what you can do to reduce it.
- Involve other people. Before you do something, think about who else it might involve or have an effect on. If you’ve noticed something needs doing, chances are someone else has too. By talking about it with others, you’re more likely to identify potential problems – and be able to solve them.
- Ask for help and information. Most importantly, before you decide you can’t do something or you’re putting yourself at risk of litigation, look for the information. If you have concerns about health and safety, ask for help. A great place to start is Citizens Advice, which can point you in the right direction.
- Be clear about what you are and aren’t responsible for. Various myths circulate about responsibility. For example, if you allow your land to be used by the community for an activity you only owe the same duty of care as to all other visitors. If you’re not sure about what the law says you can contact Community Legal Advice.
- Check your existing insurance policies to see what you are covered for. If you already hold home insurance you might be surprised to find out what individual activities it covers you for. If in doubt, ask your insurance provider. The British Insurance Broker’s Association also has a guide to insurance for volunteers.
- If you are volunteering for an organisation you are probably covered by their insurance. It’s the organisation that has a responsibility to ensure it has the right cover for its activities and its volunteers have the right information and training. If you are concerned, or just interested, you should ask what insurance the organisation has.
For full details of our policies on Child Protection, click here.
Our Code of Conduct for Coaches is here.
And our Code of Conduct for Parents and Children is here.