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Volunteer Accidents – Don’t let them wounded!

By Heather Brown
August 04, 2017

Nonprofit and social service organizations depend on volunteers to perform tasks, educate the community, and make their mission come alive. Without volunteers, your nonprofit organization would struggle to serve the community. They are your lifeblood. Alternatively, volunteers are also one of your biggest risks. Protecting volunteers needs to be at the top of your priority list to continue to build your organization and deliver services to those in need.

Volunteer Safety Program

A volunteer safety program is one of the most valuable tools you can create to protect volunteers and your nonprofit organization. Volunteer safety programs establish a set of guidelines, training requirements, and processes to minimize injury. The best volunteer safety programs include seven steps.

  1. Screening Process. All new volunteers should go through a screening process to make sure they meet your nonprofit’s needs and vice versa. Bringing on new volunteers that don’t fully embrace your mission, ethics, or expectations makes their time with you short. Review their volunteer history, background checks, references, and have them complete a volunteer application to gain a better understanding of why they want to volunteer.
  2. Commitment to Safety Statement. Address your commitment to volunteer safety by defining what that is. Abiding by OSHA requirements, continuing education, being open to feedback, how volunteers can report accidents, and safety principles at the core of your processes and procedures should be included. Ask all volunteers to review and sign that they understand.
  3. Training Program. Lack of training is one the biggest contributors to volunteer injury. Everybody learns differently; make sure you deliver training verbally, in a readable format, and by showing them how things are done. Follow up with volunteers after training to make sure they fully understand and can put their new knowledge into actions.
  4. Safety Precautions. Nonprofits have a variety of tasks, activities, and responsibilities that need completed daily. Not every volunteer will face the same risks. Clearly define risks and safety precautions by job responsibility. Breaking it down gives volunteers an easy reference point and helps them learn exactly what they need for their job.
  5. Vehicle-Use Policy. Some volunteers drive on behalf of your nonprofit which brings a different set of risks for injury. Create a separate training and policy for proper vehicle use. Define expectations to obey traffic laws, signs, and emergency vehicles. A no cell phone use while driving policy should be included in this section.
  6. Emergency Incident Plan. Emergencies happen. Whether it is a fire or natural disaster, your volunteers need to know what to do. Create an evacuation plan for emergencies and include who is responsible for tasks, meeting points, and what is okay to leave behind. During an emergency, the biggest priority is making sure your volunteers and any other individuals are safe from harm.
  7. Volunteer Release and Waiver. Each of these policies should include a release and waiver the volunteers sign to acknowledge they understand and will not hold the nonprofit responsible for their injuries by filing a lawsuit.

Volunteer Accident Insurance

In addition to creating a detailed volunteer safety program, your nonprofit can buy volunteer accident insurance. Volunteer accident insurance pays costs associated with volunteer injury that the volunteer’s medical insurance doesn’t cover. This is valuable because it reinforces that you care about your volunteer’s well-being and can alleviate any hard feelings an injured volunteer has towards your nonprofit.

There is no way to eliminate one hundred percent of accidents or risks in a nonprofit. These techniques will help you reduce and better manage them when they do occur.

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