SafeWork Australia has released a FAQ page that answers some questions one might have regarding volunteers and the OHS Harmonisation laws.
Firstly, the page explains what constitutes as a “volunteer” under the WHS act. More specifically, the faq page explains the manner in which volunteers must comply with the WHS act and subsequently, the duties owed to the volunteer under the act.For those who are unsure whether or not the harmonised laws apply to their volunteer organisation; the FAQ page states that: “A volunteer organisation owes duties to its volunteers under the WHS Act, where it conducts a ‘business or undertaking’ (whether for profit or not), and is not a ‘volunteer association’ as defined by the WHS Act.”
Are You Liable?
The page further states that volunteers can indeed be held liable if they are found to have acted in a manner that caused injury to themselves or others in the workplace. However, if a volunteer decides to be an “officer” (which has duties), the volunteer would not be prosecuted under the WHS act for failing to uphold his/her duties. This immunity from prosecution is intended to prevent discouragement of volunteers from becoming officers. However, A volunteer worker, who has breached his duties in a working capacity, can still be prosecuted.
Lastly, the page states that all businesses are required to provide their volunteers with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), if the job requires the use of such.