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This month we’ve chosen the Charity sector as our consultancy focus and answer the single most asked question on how health and safety legislation affects those working, or volunteering, within charities, voluntary and not for profit organisations – “We are a Charity does health and safety law apply to us as we use volunteers”?

Such organisations are major employers in the UK with an estimated 2.3 million people employed as paid staff. This is equivalent to 7% of the total UK workforce in 2014 – more than the workforce of the NHS, the UK’s single largest employer (1.5 million employees), and same as for the construction industry (2.2 million)*

*(Source: NCVO/ UK Civil Society Almanac 2017).

However charities are often not viewed as businesses as they are not profit-making concerns and they often rely on unpaid volunteers.

The average age of volunteers is older than the general working population, often employing retired people whose fitness and mobility may be declining.

In addition, many charities exist in run down accommodation e.g. old shops, converted churches etc. They may not have been properly surveyed and works may be carried out by well-meaning individuals who may not have the necessary knowledge, skill or equipment to carry out works safely.

Health and safety legislation doesn’t generally apply to someone who is not an employer, self-employed or an employee, in other words an individual or group of volunteers.

However as in any other sector, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and the regulations made under it, apply if any organisation (including a voluntary organisation) has at least one employee.

And of course voluntary organisations have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees, volunteers and anyone else they may come into contact with during the course of their activities.

Therefore, whilst in some instances the law may not be applicable, it would make good sense to use the law as a guide to good practice when considering the activities of the organisation, especially those Regulations termed the ‘six pack’.

The ‘six pack’ is the core set of health and safety rules which businesses have to be aware of and comprise;

  • The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations
  • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations
  • Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations

We can provide advice and training in the following areas, all of which are relevant to the charity / voluntary / not for profit sectors:

First Aid

Healthcare / Medication

Food Safety

Fire Safety

Manual Handling

Health and Safety

Nigel Braybrooke, Consultant and Training Manager