Keeping employees and volunteers safe

As an employer, you have a duty to look after both staff and volunteers, doing what you can to prevent accidents or harm. There are many health and safety requirements, and these vary extensively depending on the working environment, related risks, the colleagues, beneficiaries and supporters you work with and the size of the organisation.   This means that the responsibilities for a large international non-profit working in conflict zones will likely be very different from those of a small community-based local charity, with a handful of employees. 

You’ll need to think about what could potentially cause people harm in the workplace, at fundraising events, meetings, when visiting potential supporters and beneficiaries, and mitigate against those risks. This might include providing appropriate training, first aid equipment, making sure there are toilets and washing facilities, as well as specific requirements linked to fundraising events, charity challenges, travel or other activities.  

Fundraising organisations also have responsibility for the safety of their employees or volunteers who might work from home or those who attend meetings at a private residence, such as a trustee, donor or beneficiary’s home. This might include providing ergonomic assessments of a home workspace and introducing policies that prevent employees and volunteers from visiting private residences alone.

Questions to consider

• Have you completed a risk assessment (covering both safeguarding and health and safety) for all those that work with you?
• How do you mitigate against those risks and how often are those risks reviewed?
• Do your employees or volunteers have any special needs that should be supported with equipment, guidance or training?
• What policies have you got in place to protect home workers, those attending fundraising events or activities (particularly in the evening), and travelling or going alone to meetings?
• What future risks should the charity plan for and how will they be managed?
• What is the process for managing allegations against staff, volunteers, trustees, donors and beneficiaries, and for investigating any such issues?
• What policies are required to protect people working in areas of conflict or poverty?
• What safeguarding processes are in place to help protect your beneficiaries, supporters, employees and others from harm? (see NCVO’s guidance, Safeguarding for volunteer involving organisations)
• How will you protect people’s privacy and adhere to their contact preferences?
• What processes are in place for staff or volunteers to report any concerns about their safety or that of a colleague? This should include your policies for handling disputes, grievances, bullying or harassment claims and whistleblowing procedures.