Volunteers and Safety

This page lays out links and information about Workplace Health and Safety as it relates to volunteers and how to manage risk when engaging volunteers.

Volunteer Central Vic recommends that you refer to WorkSafe Victoria, DHHS, Volunteering Australia, Volunteering Victoria and Justice Connect Not For Profit Law when it comes to issues of Workplace Health and Safety, insurance and legal issues concerning volunteers.

If your organisation involves working with children, you are required to meet the Child Safe Standards.

You can read more about the Standards here:

Child Safe Standards

You can also find out more by watching this short film by the Commission for Children and Young People:

Background checks are important step in keeping your organisation safe and in preventing potential problems.

  • Background Checks are an important part of your screening process. They can help ensure you are engaging volunteers who will be suitable for the role.
  • Background checks are an essential part of your risk management strategy and process.
  • Certain background checks may be required by law. Being consistent and thorough when conducting checks is essential.
  • Reference checks are discretionary, but they can be useful in helping you determine a potential volunteer’s attitude and capabilities.
  • Volunteer Central Vic recommends to always conduct a reference check as part of your screening process.
  • You may need to conduct multiple checks, depending on the nature of the volunteering role and the people involved.

For More Information:


Workplace Health and Safety in Victoria is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (the OHS Act) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic)

– Justice Connect

All organisations have a duty of care to their volunteers and employees and all volunteers have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.

Community orrganisations are considered employers if they have one paid worker or more. This includes part-time employees or contractors i.e. bookkeepers. All employers are subject to OHS laws.

Even if an organisation is entirely run by volunteers, it could still be subject to OHS laws if it is responsible for managing or controlling a workplace.

Volunteer Central Vic strongly recommends that all organisations have a Workplace Health and Safety Policy and set of procedures to protect your volunteers. The health and safety of volunteers should be your first priority.

Essential Reading:

Worksafe Guide to Volunteer Health and Safety

Volunteering Victoria Guide: Health-and-Safety-PDF

Justice Connect NFP Law Work Health & Safety


Volunteer risk management tools

Use a Risk Assessment Matrix to determine the level of risk per activity:

The following resources can be used by organisations to assess volunteer roles and activities for possible risks and take action to mitigate:

Keeping your volunteers safe should be a first priority.

Insurance is there as a safety net after all other risks have been managed and OHS laws complied with.

Volunteers are not covered under Worksafe Victoria and never have been.

While it’s not compulsory for organisations to provide cover for volunteers, they do have a duty to advise volunteers that there is no protection against work related injuries if that is the case. However, organisations have a duty of care to ensure a safe work place for all staff, whether paid or volunteer.

It is a condition of registration with Volunteer Central Vic that organisations, groups, clubs and associations have the correct insurance in place for volunteers, to ensure that all aspects of safety are met and that organisations are complying with their duty of care towards volunteers.

Volunteer Personal Accident insurance will provide basic cover for volunteers. It does not provide the extent of cover provided by Worksafe, but some level of insurance against personal accident or injury is part of an organisation’s Duty of Care towards its volunteers.

Public Liability Insurance is a good protection against accident or injury to members of the public. However, it is important to understand that this insurance only covers accident or injury to the public. Most Public Liability insurance will not cover claims for injury occuring to volunteers while working for an organisation.


Volunteering Australia has partnered with AON Australia to provide comprehensive insurance to volunteer-involving organisations. You can take the AON Insurance Puzzle Helper here to find out what your insurance needs are:

AON Insurance Helper

All Victorian legislation can be found at www.legislation.vic.gov.au

All Commonwealth legislation can be found at www.comlaw.gov.au


Getting volunteers involved

  • Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
  • Independent Contractor Act 2006 (Cth)

Recruiting volunteers

  • Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)
  • Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic)
  • Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

Screening volunteers

  • Working with Children Act 2005 (Vic)

Volunteer safety

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)
  • Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic)

Volunteers and workplace behaviour

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)
  • Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic)

Volunteers and workplace behaviour

  • Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

Administering the volunteer program

  • Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
  • Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic)
  • Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)
  • income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth)

Reviewing / ending the volunteer relationship

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
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