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Health and safety of volunteers important

Health and safety of volunteers as important as that of paid employees

Volunteers who work for an employer or self-employed person on an ongoing and regular basis, where that work is integral to the business, should have the same health and safety protections as paid employees, Labour Minister Margaret Wilson said today.

Leading the second reading of the Health and Safety In Employment Amendment Bill in the House, she said many volunteers work alongside or perform the same work as employees, the only difference being the absence of wages.

“This Bill will provide protection for these volunteers by requiring their employers to take all practicable steps to provide them with a safe working environment. The volunteers too will be required to take all practicable steps to ensure their own safety and the safety of others while at work.”

Margaret Wilson said a Supplementary Order Paper would be introduced clarifying the coverage of volunteers. This would specifically exclude a number of volunteer activities from the enforceable provisions of the Act.

Excluded from liability under the Act are volunteers who: take part in fundraising activities help with sports and recreation for a sports or recreation club or educational institution help with activities for an educational institution outside the premises of the educational institution provide care for another person in the volunteer’s home.

”However, there will be a general duty of care covering all volunteers excluded from the enforceable provisions,” Margaret Wilson said. “This duty provides that all practicable steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of volunteers. This would be achieved for example by considering hazards when planning the work activity. If OSH became aware of a hazard, they would be required to contact the organiser and discuss how this could be managed.”

While this general duty of care was not enforceable, it was the message that was important, Margaret Wilson said.

“All work activities should be planned and organised with health and safety in mind. All workers should be safe when performing work activities.”

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