Duties To Volunteers


Duties to volunteers 

Rescues and rehoming organisations have a common law duty of care towards their volunteers. They must ensure that they take reasonable steps to reduce the likelihood and potential severity of injury to their volunteers. Volunteers must be adequately trained, supervised when appropriate and organisations must ensure safety measures, such as wearing protective clothing are followed.  As above Battersea Academy provides useful  training and resources: https://academy.battersea.org.uk/about-academy

Health and safety policies:

It is good practice to have (and regularly review) a health and safety policy; this should be disseminated to all staff, volunteers and members of the public who may visit any premises (a written health and safety policy is required for all organisation which employ five or more staff[S[1] ).

Risk Assessments

While rescues with no paid employees are not under a legal duty to undertake risk assessments, it is good practice. Robust health and safety protocols including risk assessments may help you refute a claim of negligence were a volunteer to be injured while volunteering for your organisation.

Risk assessments in respect to paid staff should also take account of how the actions of those staff may impact on the health and safety of volunteers.

Advice as to how to approach risk assessments, including a worked example and template is issued by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and is available here.


Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000

What happens if I/ my organisation break the law?

Organisations may also be held liable for injuries incurred by volunteers while carrying out their volunteer role or for the actions of volunteers if they compromise the health and safety of others when volunteering. In an extreme case if  someone dies due to negligence on the part of your organisation you may be liable for gross negligence manslaughter[SS[2] 

Criminal liability under Health and Safety Law:

Who this liability attaches to depends on the structure of your organisation;

  • If your organisation is incorporated (so for example an incorporated charity) criminal proceedings under health and safety law will be against the organisation.
  • If your organisation is an unincorporated association any criminal action arising from a breach of health and safety regulations will be against the association i.e. office bearers, or in lieu of office bearers, members.
  • If your organisation is an unincorporated charitable trust then any criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety regulations will be against the trustees as named individuals.

Civil liability:

Who this liability attaches to depends on the status of your organisation;

  • If your organisation is incorporated, for example an incorporated charitable trust then the person who caused the harm will be primarily held accountable, although in some circumstances the organisation may also be found to be vicariously liable.
  • If your organisation is an unincorporated association or trust then members of the governing committee/trustees may be personally liable.

Organisations may wish to take out public liability insurance which indemnifies for injuries suffered by or incurred by the actions of volunteers. Unincorporated charitable organisations may also wish to consider taking out trustee indemnity insurance.

 [S[1]link to employers duties section?

 [SS[2]Jen suggested this? I’m not sure if too extreme? If we are keeping it should probably feature under crim liability for employees too?