Health and safety policies for voluntary organisations

This document provides guidance to voluntary organisations on:
 Whether the organisation needs to adopt a health and safety policy; and, if so
 How to prepare a health and safety policy
 Risk assessment subjects specific to voluntary organisations
 Useful publications from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the
Government’s authority for enforcing health and safety regulations.
Does our voluntary organisation need a health and safety policy?
This section initially outlines the legal health and safety responsibilities that are likely
to apply to voluntary organisations. It goes on to interpret this information and
recommend the circumstances in which a voluntary organisation may wish to adopt a
health and safety policy.
Summary of employers’ legal responsibilities regarding health and safety
HSE’s “Charity and voluntary workers – a guide to health and safety at work”
publication outlines employers’ legal responsbilities regarding health and safety
under a number of paragraphs (in addition, the comments under paragraph 4 are
worth highlighting first):
“4. The term “worker” is used throughout this book and deliberately includes
employees and voluntary workers, ie people who work for an employer but not as an
employee. While most health and safety law specifically refers to “employees” and
the duties owed to them, it is good practice, and very strongly recommended, that
people working as volunteers are given the same level of protection as employees.
(In other words, if your organisation uses either volunteers or paid staff, then health
and safety laws and regulations should apply to it).
21: Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) employers must,
so far as is reasonably practicable, provide:
 Safe equipment
 Safe substances
 Necessary information, instruction, supervision and training
 A safe and healthy workplace
 A safe and healthy working environment.
25: The HSW Act is supported by many regulations setting out more detailed legal
duties...... In summary, they require employers to:
 Carry out risk assessments of their work activities and workplaces......
 Follow the “prevention principles” for removing or controlling risks
 Have effective health and safety arrangements in place for managing health
and safety (including emergency arrangements) and access to competent
health and safety advice
 Take a worker’s capabilities into account when assigning jobs
 Co-operate and co-ordinate health and safety with other employers, eg on
shared premises.
30: Employers are required to display the poster “Health and safety law: What you
should know” in the workplace and bring it to employees’ attention..... If you do not
want to display the poster, you may give each of your employees an individual leaflet
(available from HSE) that contains the same information.
34: Employers are required to consult with their employees on health and safety
40: The regulations require employers to provide first-aid kits, other equipment and
trained first aiders or appointed people for employees at work”.
Recommended approach
The “Charity and voluntary workers...” publication goes on to state that:
“54: It is helpful to have a health and safety policy”.
In addition, the Health and Safety law poster states that:
“If there are 5 or more employees, employers must draw up a health and safety
policy statement.... and bring it to employees’ attention”.
Our interpretation of the HSE guidance is that if your organisation uses any
volunteers or paid staff, then a health and safety policy is a recommended method of
helping you work towards meeting your legal health and safety obligations as
outlined above (particularly if the HSE template policy is adopted – see below). If
your organisation has five or more paid staff and/or volunteers, then you should have
a health and safety policy anyway.
How to prepare a health and safety policy
To prepare a health and safety policy, it is advisable to base it on the template
available on pages 21–31 of another HSE publication, “An Introduction to Health and
Safety – health and safety in small businesses”. The template can either be filled in
by hand or retyped and adapted into a new version, and guidance notes are provided
The template health and safety policy covers the following areas, which correspond
with the legal obligations outlined above:
 Responsibilities
 Risk assessment
 Consultation with employees
 Safe plant and equipment
 Safe handling and use of substances
 Information, instruction and supervision
 Competency for tasks and training
 Accidents, first aid and work related ill-health
 Monitoring
 Emergency procedures – fire and evacuation.
Risk assessment subjects specific to voluntary organisations
Once a health and safety policy has been adopted, the day to day management of
health and safety should be based on undertaking risk assessments of all potential
hazards within an organisation. A template risk assessment procedure follows the
template health and safety policy on pp 32-34 of the “Introduction to Health and
Safety” publication.
Many potential hazards are common to almost all organisations, but some are
particularly pertinant to voluntary organisations. Further information on these can be
found in the “Charity and voluntary workers” publication under the following headings:
 Information, instruction, supervision and training
 Accidents, sickness absence and returning to work
 Charity shops
 Driving and transport
 Fire safety
 Fundraising
 Hazardous substances
 Lone working
 Moving and handling
 Work-related stress
 Violence at work
 Work equipment (including electrical, lifting and display screen equipment)
 The workplace.
1. “Charity and voluntary workers – a guide to health and safety at work”, HSE:
priced publication available from (alternatively, a copy is
kept in the BCVS library)
2. “An Introduction to Health and Safety – health and safety in small
businesses”, HSE: free leaflet available from
3. Additional guidance on Health and Safety at Work: Policies and Procedures
specifically for voluntary organisations that employ paid staff can be found on
this page: