Does OSHA apply to volunteers?
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Most employers with at least one employee are subject to Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) requirements (see www.osha.gov). But what about an organization’s volunteers? Does OSHA apply to volunteers?
The answer is not black and white. Generally, OSHA applies to the employees of an organization. But the definition of employee is complex and depending on the situation it is possible that a volunteer may be deemed to be an employee. To help lessen exposure, volunteers should not be paid for their work. It should be made clear to volunteers that the services they provide are purely voluntary and they should not be compensated in any way, including providing food or reducing homeowners dues, for example. You should seek legal counsel if you have questions about the whether your volunteers truly meet the definition of volunteer.
If volunteers are deemed to truly be volunteers, technically, OSHA requirements will not apply. However, an organization does need to be concerned about the general well being and safety of its volunteers. In addition to having a moral obligation to help make sure volunteers do not injure themselves, your organization may have potential liability exposure. As a good business practice and good faith effort, an organization should require that volunteers abide by its safety and training practices.
(Photo credited to: wikipedia.org)
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, and based on particular situations, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice, financial advice and/or the advice of a licensed insurance or certified human resource professional.
© Connelly, Carlisle, Fields & Nichols 2012