Volunteers ARE protected by health and safety legislation
Date: Thursday, September 04, 2008 @ 11:28:50 BST
Topic: Health and Safety Executive (HSE) News

The voluntary sector has a vital role to play in Scotland, with 45,000 voluntary organisations, 13,000 paid staff and up to 1.2 million volunteers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and the STUC have teamed up to remind voluntary organisations that they all have a role to play in ensuring the safety and health of their army of volunteers, and to reassure volunteers that they too are protected by health and safety legislation.

PA series of recent seminars held in Glasgow and Edinburgh, organized by the STUC, Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and HSE has been highlighting to community organisations the help and support available to ensure that they and their volunteers are up to date with the latest legislation, with an emphasis placed on the role of worker involvement and consultation.

HSE Principal Inspector John Blackburn commented:

"Having proper procedures in place is important to prevent accidents and make sure workers and volunteers can work in a safe environment.  Organisations have a moral as well as legal duty to be aware of health and safety, and it also makes financial sense.  Employees and volunteers too, should ensure they take reasonable care of themselves and others, and to co-operate with their employer.

HSE believes it is crucial for volunteers and employees alike to be involved in the safety process. Safety Committees have an important role to play in promoting cooperation on health safety and welfare matters, providing a forum for discussion, ideas and recommendations to the employer and to promote and support normal employer / employee systems for reporting and control of workplace solutions.

Topics covered should include risk assessment and legislation, with emphasis on worker involvement in the process; the purpose of having a safety policy; how a risk assessment helps to prevent accidents in the workplace; workers rights and the role of the trades unions.

Workers and volunteers can be involved in the safety process through a union, safety rep, discussions with staff and other volunteers or use of a staff suggestion scheme."

Robert Atkinson, Occupational Health and Safety Development Manager for the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives said:

"Healthy Working Lives Advisers can provide free and confidential advice in your workplace. Our Advisers work with many voluntary organisations, indeed they are our single largest client group, meaning that all our Advisers have knowledge of the sector and experience of the health and safety issues and appropriate solutions. All the services provided by Healthy Working Lives are free and the voluntary sector can also access a number of free online and face to face training courses to help build staff competence. More information is available through the HWL advice line on 0800 019 2211."

Ian Tasker, STUC Assistant Secretary said:

"As an organisation the STUC understands the constraints that many voluntary sector organisations are under and we recognise the commitment from the sector, its workers and volunteers in delivering services to users.

Our experience has shown that, on the whole most voluntary sector organisations recognise their responsibilities to protect their workers but hesitate on how to develop their health and safety systems and cannot afford to access professional assistance to do so.

This is why initiatives like this to promote worker involvement, utilising the skills and knowledge of the HSE, the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and the trade union movement are vitally important."

The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives was established in 2005 as part of NHS Health Scotland.  It can offer advice on the latest healthy and safety legislation, occupational health support and help with health promotion.

For a free and confidential advice or to arrange a workplace visit, please call the Adviceline on 0800 019 2211 or visit our website www.healthyworkinglives.com

This article comes from Sheffield Occupational Health and Safety Association (SOHSA)

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