The news that a charity has been fined for a serious health and safety breach is a tragic but timely reminder that – just like the private and public sector – voluntary organisations owe a moral and legal duty of care to those who interact with them. In this case, the volunteer suffered a lifelong injury, and the charity experienced the trauma, reputational damage and financial impact of a major incident.

The first concern many have about health and safety compliance is that it’s time-consuming, complicated and involves reams of paperwork. This needn’t be the case.

There’s a lot of support out there to help you create a practical and sensible solution that will encourage a positive working culture.

Proactively managing health and safety can bring its own benefits, including reduced absences, increased productivity and improved professional reputation. It may also be a requirement of funders and reduce insurance premiums.

Proactively managing health and safety can bring its own benefits, including reduced absences, increased productivity and improved professional reputation

Some barriers for small or low-risk voluntary organisations may be a lack of time to complete and track paperwork as well as deliver training on policies and procedures. Volunteers and staff may also be reluctant to bring up concerns, worrying they will require expensive solutions which diverts funds from core work.

The Health and Safety Executive has some useful, free tools for low-risk activities such as small charity shops or an office. They break down the risk assessment process into easy steps and ensure records are stored and tracked for you.

Healthy Working Lives also provides free and confidential support for all health and safety queries, as well as easy to use tools and templates.

Staff and volunteers are often the best source of information on likely risks or problems with procedure. They can also deliver training and suggest solutions to problems. Encouraging reporting and explaining the benefits to the organisation should help overcome concerns. Ask volunteers and staff if they have relevant experience, but remember to ensure they are competent and best placed to undertake the work.

Once you have put procedures into place it is important to record all your good work. This needn’t be complicated, but helps ensure it is relevant and up to date. It is far more important to have a practical system that records risks and actions than reams of paperwork that are written from a desk and don’t reflect reality.

Tthere’s a lot of useful help and information out there. As well as the organisations above, there are a number of private companies who can help you manage health and safety. Ensure they are competent and provide a practical, proportionate solution.

Another idea is to look at recruiting trustees with specialisms in health and safety or facilities management. See our blog on recruiting great trustees for some tips on this.

If you have any further health and safety queries, give our Information Service a call on 0800 169 0022.