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Businesses and volunteers

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, volunteers are workers if they carry out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). Therefore, a PCBU has an obligation to ensure volunteers perform work in a safe and healthy workplace receive the same protection as paid workers. Volunteers also have a duty of care for their own health and safety as well as that of others.

Workplaces can include locations such as beaches, churches and scout halls. If an organisation is conducting an undertaking, it may be considered a workplace.

Note: a volunteer organisation may be a PCBU if they employ any person.

An asbestos register is required for workplace buildings unless constructed after 31 December 1989 and no asbestos is present or likely to be present from time to time.

An asbestos management plan must be written in relation to identified or assumed asbestos or asbestos-containing material, and for naturally occurring asbestos at a workplace.

Reasonable steps should be taken to indicate the presence and location of asbestos by a label and record the asbestos in a register and inform everyone that carries out (or may carry out) work on the premises, including volunteers where asbestos is present, the consequences of exposure to asbestos and appropriate control measures.

If personal protective equipment (PPE) is being used to minimise health and safety risks, volunteer organisations that are PCBUs must provide PPE to volunteers unless it has been provided by another PCBU. In many circumstances, volunteers may be encouraged or required to wear their own appropriate attire and footwear and be provided with PPE such as gloves and eye and ear protection

A private home may, in some circumstances, be a workplace, but only where the volunteer worker is carrying out work there for a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU). Work in this context does not include activities of a purely domestic, recreational or social nature.

If you are volunteering:

  • take reasonable care for your own health and safety
  • take reasonable care to ensure you don't negatively impact the health and safety of others
  • carry out your tasks in a safe way
  • follow the reasonable work health and safety instructions given to you by the organisation you volunteer for
  • cooperate with the reasonable policies and procedures of the organisation you volunteer for that relate to work health and safety.