Peoplesafe CEO, Naz Dossa, is Chairman of the BSIA Lone Worker Section Committee.
By the very nature of the work they do, charity employees and volunteers may find themselves working alone, often during unsociable hours and in situations that pose very real risks to their personal safety.
These risks affect the recruitment of volunteers and staff, as well as having serious impacts on the charity itself if something does go wrong. However, there are measures charities can take to improve the safety of every worker.
Who needs protecting?
Volunteers collecting donations on the street or handling desirable items in a charity retail store could be seen as easy targets by potential thieves, particularly if they are by themselves and distracted by other people.
Likewise, fundraisers travelling door-to-door are at a high risk of receiving verbal or physical abuse from people that do not wish to be disturbed in their home environment. Similarly, certain charities working with vulnerable individuals may offer a home visit service. Entering the homes of these service users presents a risk to health and safety, particularly if the client has a history of challenging behaviour.
What can charities do to protect their team?
Charities can mitigate the risk to both paid employees and volunteers by providing appropriate training and by setting up and endorsing safe working practices. They may also introduce more supervision and, in appropriate cases, the correct protective clothing and equipment. Peoplesafe is fast becoming the personal protection equipment of choice for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, The Salvation Army, MindWise and RNIB in the UK, who see the need to keep their people safe 24/7.
It’s important to note that The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, protects volunteers working within an organisation but a voluntary body that has no paid employees cannot be prosecuted under this act, because it is criminal law and only applies to employers, employees and the self-employed.
However, under civil law, organisations still have a ‘duty of care’ requirement to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of anyone that deals with them, including volunteers, customers, suppliers or even the general public. Additional health and safety measures for volunteers may be deemed more necessary, because a volunteer may be less familiar with the working environment, or have less experience than a full-time charity employee.
As a result of this legal ‘duty of care,’ an injured volunteer can bring a civil claim against a charity, where that duty has been breached. For this and other reasons, it’s considered good practice that people working as volunteers are afforded the same level of health and safety protection as paid employees.
Safety policies and risk assessment
Organisations with five or more employees are legally obligated to have a written health and safety policy, setting out the organisation’s commitment and clarifying procedures. If volunteers form part of the organisation’s workforce, they should be included in any policy and have access to it. Smaller and volunteer-only organisations should also strongly consider writing a similar policy.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places an additional duty on employers to conduct risk assessments. To demonstrate that an organisation’s duty of care towards its employees and volunteers is being taken seriously, potential risks should be considered, and steps put in place to mitigate them.
How Peoplesafe bolsters charity worker safety
Peoplesafe is working with a growing number of organisations that recognise this duty of care to protect the charity workforce. And with over 20 years of experience in the lone worker industry, we are using pioneering technology to create an end-to-end personal safety service that does not rely on third parties and guarantees charity employees and volunteers a fast response from emergency services in the event of a threat, accident, or hazardous situations.
Dedicated to helping make charity volunteers and employees feel more valued and cared for, we’re helping charitable organisations to fulfil their legislative duty of care with confidence.
Addiction NI said:
“The Peoplesafe system is easy to operate and provides staff with the reassurance that if a situation arose in which they felt they were at risk, they have immediate access to a panic alarm to summon help.”
For more information, please visit: www.peoplesafe.co.uk.