5 Key Elements of Volunteer Safety Training

Volunteer safety training is a must-have for organizations that use volunteers.  If you rely on a volunteer workforce, you are responsible for making sure they can perform their duties safely.

Safety training is a key component in creating and maintaining a safe workplace.  Volunteer safety training should be part of basic volunteer orientation.  This is pro-active.  It ensures that people know how to work safely before they begin doing things.

Change is inevitable.  For this reason, safety training must be an ongoing process.  You will need to provide additional training as individuals take on new duties.  And you will need to adapt the training whenever there are changes in how or where things are done.

5 Key Elements

When you invest in volunteer safety training you are are protecting individual volunteers from harm.  In addition, you are creating a workplace culture in which everyone is safety conscious. This is the greater, long-term benefit.

Volunteer orientation should include 5 key elements of safety training:

  1. Information about the organization’s health and safety policies and practices
  2. Identification of any hazards volunteers may be exposed to
  3. Training to reduce the risks associated with each identified hazard
  4. Training in the safe use of any required tools, machinery, or personal protective. equipment
  5. Clear information about how to report unsafe behaviours or situations, and who to speak with about health and safety concerns

Common Hazards

Some activities and some environments are “safer” for volunteers than others.  However, virtually no situation is 100% hazard-free.  With this in mind, volunteer safety training needs to cover the most common types of hazards.  These include:

  • Biological hazards, like exposure to contagious diseases
  • Chemical hazards, like cleaners, paints, solvents, etc. that may be poisonous, explosive, flammable, or reactive with other products
  • Ergonomic hazards, like improperly set up work areas
  • Physical hazards, including exposure to electricity, loud noise, or extreme temperatures
  • Safety hazards related to the improper use, or malfunctions, of equipment or tools
  • Psychological hazards, like stress
  • Violence hazards, associated with things like working the public, working alone, or carrying cash

Hazard-Specific Training

It is not unusual for some volunteers to be exposed to additional hazards, depending on their duties. In such circumstances, you will need to provide hazard-specific safety training.  Examples include:

  • WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System)
  • First Aid
  • Emergency response
  • Fire safety
  • Infection control
  • Safe use of equipment, machinery, and other devices
  • Ergonomics
  • Workplace violence prevention
  • Working alone safely

The Volunteer Job Description

Volunteers must know what they are being asked to do, how they should do it, and where the task will be performed.  Click to tweet

Provide each volunteer with a written Volunteer Job Description.  By creating clear descriptions of each duty, you make it easier to identify corresponding safety rules and procedures.  Volunteers with written job descriptions may find it easier to see the connection between the safety training you are providing and their activities.


In Canada, there are more than 150,000 registered charities and non-profits, and 47% of Canadians do volunteer work. Clearly, volunteer safety training is an important issue. Like paid workers, volunteer workers deserve to go home safely at the end of each day.  The onus is on organizations that use volunteers to make sure each person has the training they need to protect themselves, and others, from harm.

Article written by Kim Scaravelli, CEO, Trust Communications Inc.  


We are Instructional Design and Digital Content Specialists.  We have created 200+ customized online and blended learning programs for companies and non-profit organizations across Canada. 

Curious about how to train volunteers effectively?    If you would like to talk about your organization’s training needs,  email us.

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