WHS Obligations for Volunteer Organisations

One of the significant impacts of the introduction of harmonised WHS Legislation at the start of 2012 was changing the term ‘employee’ to ‘worker’, strengthening and clarifying the obligations for WHS that a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must do in relation to ensuring volunteer safety.

What is a volunteer?

What is a volunteer association?
A volunteer association is a group of volunteers working together for one or more community purposes that may be incorporated or unincorporated and does not employ any ‘workers’.

What are the obligations for Volunteer Association without Paid Workers?
Volunteer associations without paid workers do not have work health and safety (WHS) duties for their volunteers under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) as they are not considered a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU - the new term that includes employers).

For example, a local sporting association that coaches or referees a junior sports match on a Saturday morning does not have WHS duties if it does not employ the coaches or referees.

It should be noted, while the Act does not place obligations for WHS, as part of good risk management processes, volunteer associations without paid workers should still identify potential risks and develop processes for managing those risks.

What are the obligations for Volunteer Associations with Paid Workers?
A volunteer association with paid workers is regarded as a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU).

As a PCBU, this type of volunteer organisation has responsibilities under the WHS Act, including a primary duty of care to ensure its workers (paid employees and volunteers) are not exposed to any risk to their health and safety.

Volunteer directors and officers of a PCBU
Volunteers serving as officers of a volunteer organisation that employs paid workers must exercise due diligence to ensure the volunteer organisation complies with its duties.

For example, a volunteer officer serving on the board of a PCBU such as a not for profit childcare centre is considered an officer of that childcare centre. As an officer, they must exercise due diligence to ensure the childcare centre complies with its work health and safety duties.

Volunteer officers of associations (including unincorporated associations) that do not employ any paid workers do not have the duties of an officer under the WHS Act.

For further help or assistance, please contact the Community Underwriting team at any time on 02 8045 2582.