Volunteerism is a growing activity, especially for high school students who must complete 40 hours of volunteer work before graduation.
Volunteers are not covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and may not be covered by the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA).
That leaves the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Act provides protection
for workers, that is, persons at the workplace who receive money for their work. That
being said, employers still have some responsibility for the health and safety of persons
visiting or helping out in their workplaces.
If you are a parent of a volunteer or a sponsoring organization you can find more information about volunteerism by selecting one of the following links:
- What do I have to know as a teen volunteer?
- How can I know how to do a job if I've never done it before?
- How in the world could I know about the hazards in a job they give me?
- 13 rules to LIVE by
- Other tips and tricks
|What do I have to know as a teen volunteer?
Young adults under the age of 25 are at much higher risk of injury while on the job
than any other age group. Even as a volunteer, you may be exposed to the same
types of hazards that have resulted in serious injuries to young workers in Ontario.
We all want to do our best. We want to show those we are working with that we can handle
the tasks they give us. We want to make everyone satisfied with our performance, especially the people
we're helping and the people who assign us the work.
Injuries happen. They can be relatively minor, such as cuts, bruises and strains. But
far too often incidents result in broken bones, dislocations, burns, concussions or the
amputation of a finger, hand, toe or arm. Some young people die from the injuries they
suffer in Ontario workplaces.
REPORT ALL INJURIES even if...
- you are volunteering with your parent or a family friend
- you feel that reporting will make them think less of your capabilities
- you think it's 'nothing'
- you're concerned about what others will think.
Break a leg and you may suffer for years to come. Break your neck or spine and you
may be in a wheelchair for life. Suffering a head injury can mean your brain never works
the same again. It happens. It could happen to you.
You can't be a volunteer:
- on a construction site or logging operation unless you're 16
- in a factory setting or restaurant kitchen unless you're 15
- in other industrial workplaces unless you're 14.
|How can I know how to do a job if I've never done it before?
You can't... and this is not the time for trial and error or learning as you go. Ask for
training and a demonstration. Don't perform the task until both you and your supervisor
are sure you can do it safely.
You can be bright, willing to work, anxious to help and capable, but sometimes it's
difficult to admit that you don't know what's safe.
|How in the world could I know about the hazards in a job they give me?
You can't... You're not a mind reader. The job is new, the rules are new, the
stuff you're exposed to is new. But every job has hazards. Most hazards can be
easily controlled, if you know what might be dangerous in the first place.
You can be bright, willing to work, anxious to help and capable, but sometimes it's
difficult to admit that you don't know how do things. But no one should expect you to
know how to do something you've never done before.
Here are a few hints:
- STEER away from operating machinery wherever possible.
Operating industrial equipment - and that includes forklifts, motorized carts, mixers in a
kitchen, lawnmowers and trimmers - require training. They can tangle your hair around
their gears, catch your clothing and cause severe damage to your arms or legs. They can
pinch your fingers, grab your hands and amputate your fingers. Even worse things could happen.
- KEEP AWAY from chemicals.
Chemicals used in workplaces are often strong, contain ingredients not found in household
products and can cause serious injuries to people who work with them without following
strict procedures. Under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
there are strict requirements for labelling, worker training and providing safety information
about hazardous chemicals and other substances. It you can avoid working with them, do! If
you must work with them, insist on training.
- BACK OFF from biological exposure.
You may be exposed to human waste as well as blood and saliva if you work around people or in
a laboratory. Animals also harbour bacteria (germs!) that can cause illness in humans.
People, animals and things that pose a biological hazard may have to be handled, but you
need to know how to do it right. Rubber gloves and heavy-duty hand washing are work procedures
people exposed to these hazards are taught and learn to do every day.
- BY-PASS slips and falls
Slips on floors, stairs and other surfaces seem like something that "just happens" to everyone.
Slips and falls from heights or even falling just a few feet have resulted in some very serious
injuries. You could hit your head, break your arm or leg, or worse. In fact, slips and falls
are one of the top reasons why people are admitted to hospital emergency rooms and one of the
most common ways people get injured at work. Watch out for wet, icy or uneven floors. Only
climb to reach something over your head if you have a proper ladder one that's in good shape.
Climbing up on shelves, standing on stools, rolling carts, boxes, etc. may seem like they're
'good enough', but they really aren't. You deserve the right equipment.
- One size DOES NOT FIT ALL.
Just because someone else can lift those boxes, doesn't mean everyone can. In a volunteer
situation where sometimes there are a lot of different jobs to be done (like working on a
food drive), volunteer to do a job that you think you can handle. NOT everyone is physically
capable of carrying heavy boxes or helping seniors in and out of chairs.
Even the simplest jobs have dangers
Examples of hazards to watch for: exposure to biological hazards, radiation and slippery
Powered equipment can cause powerful injuries. Eyes and ears can be damaged too.
Restocking library shelves
When you have to reach the top shelves, having a proper stool or ladder is critical.
Use rolling carts to move books from one place to another avoid lifting and carrying
|13 rules to LIVE by
- Get training How do I do it? Can you show me? What things should I look out for?
- Learn how to do the job safely. Know the policies, procedure and rules and follow them.
Know what to do when there's an emergency.
- Be supervised. Will you be here to watch to see that I do the job correctly? If
you're not near to where I'm working and I have a question, who should I ask?
- Wear the gear. Hair nets, gloves, aprons, safety glasses, ear plugs, whatever.
If they're required, find out how to use them properly and wear them.
- Think the job through and identify risks before you start it. Identify unsafe
practices and situations and report them.
- Ask, Ask, Ask,. There are no stupid questions, just stupid excuses when you
do something without being told and without instructions. Communicate!
- Don't do anything that you haven't been instructed to do safely and don't do anything
you've been told not to do, for anyone! Your supervisor rules. If other people working
with you ask you to do something you have been told not to do or have not received training in,
check with your supervisor before you do it.
- Follow rules. Every game plan and every job has to include rules to ensure
everyone plays fairly, acts like a team and moves the ball together.
- Tell your supervisor if you see anything hazardous that may hurt you or someone
else. If you see someone else doing something that you know could injure them, report it. Who
is doing it is not as important as what is being done. This isn't ratting, it's a mature move
to prevent unnecessary injuries.
- If you get hurt, no matter how minor it may seem to you, report it to your
supervisor and let your family know. Remember that you are not being asked to give until it
- Talk to your family and let them know what type of tasks you'll be doing and the training
you received. Let them know of any concerns you have or things you see that you don't think are right.
Sometimes your parents know things you don't.
- Be honest. If you think the task is beyond your personal capabilities, let the employer
know right away. Don't take on anything that you can't handle.
- Don't assume you can do something you haven't done before without some guidance,
instructions or supervision and never do anything more than what you were actually told to do
without checking with the supervisor first.
|Other tips and tricks
- Work on asking smart questions and avoid having to give dumb answers.
"If I had only known that before I started." "I didn't know!" "No one told me".
- Being tired and less attentive increases your risk of injury. Select volunteer
times that don't conflict with other responsibilities and times you are most likely to be alert.
Your health and safety is more important than any job or paycheque.
HEADS UP! Keep your eyes open and speak up. You need to protect yourself!