Some Jobs Aren’t Made for Volunteers

Vol. 16 No. 9

trustees eletter vol16 no9 novolunteer

They’re perched on ladders painting window trim, on the roof cleaning gutters, or shoveling snow on the sidewalks. They’re your school’s volunteers.

You can’t imagine how your staff would complete all those buildings-and-grounds projects and various other tasks without these generous people. However, some of them are performing potentially dangerous work. As a Trustee, you and your fellow Board members should make sure the school has a policy concerning volunteers and their work on your campus.

As part of your risk management plan, you may already have general school policies and insurance coverage in place for volunteers. However, you need to be specific about those who are doing physical labor and using equipment.

Policies and Guidelines

  • Establish guidelines about the tasks volunteers may and may not perform. For example, they should not take on high-risk jobs such as using power equipment or working on rooftops. Hire professionals for these jobs.
  • If a professional (such as the owner of a construction company) wants to donate services relating to his field, draw up a contract. You want to be clear on deadlines, job specifications, and who is responsible for the work and insurance (this should be the company, not the individual or the school).
  • School personnel should supervise any volunteer projects. Supervisors must confirm a volunteer’s ability to use the school’s equipment. They might, for example, remind a volunteer not to go above the third step from the top of a ladder, or to make sure to review the controls on a snow blower.
  • Volunteers should not bring equipment from home for use on a school project. The item may not be in good repair and could malfunction, causing an accident or injury to that person or others.
  • Establish trip protocols for those who are transporting students—for example, on field trips or at athletic events. These guidelines might range from permissible vehicles, to rules for caravanning, or even the steps to take in the case of an accident. (Note that these policies apply to school personnel as well as volunteers.)

Insurance Coverage

  • Make sure your school’s insurance covers volunteers. Ask your broker or agent to review your Directors & Officers liability, general liability, workers' compensation, and automotive policies, among others.
  • Ask volunteers if they have their own coverage (for health and accident, automobile, or whatever applies). While this may seem intrusive to them—and possibly you—keep in mind that, should an accident occur, they will expect the school’s insurance to cover them. If they do not have their own adequate coverage, you can:
    • find other ways for them to serve;
    • determine whether the school’s life, disability, or accident policy can be extended to cover volunteers; or
    • thank them for their interest and explain that you can’t allow performance of particular kinds of work under the school’s risk management policies.
  • Even if volunteers are covered by the school and through their own insurance, have them sign waivers acknowledging possible hazards and agreeing to hold the school harmless in case of injury or death.

There are numerous legal and insurance issues involved with volunteer work. Confer with your agent and attorney to review the policies and coverage currently in place. Then take extra measures that make sense to your school and its culture.

You value the services volunteers provide. They take pride in the roles they play in the life of the school. Sound risk management polices will help ensure the safety of your volunteers and your school.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Trustees Vol. 16 No. 5 Why You Can’t Afford to Be Without D&O Insurance
The Source for Private School News Vol. 17 No. 4 Why Senior Citizens Are a Vital Addition to Your Volunteer Pool
The Source for Advancement Vol. 14 No. 3 Three Reasons to Be Wary of “Free Work”

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 16 Keep Track of Parent Volunteers’ Contributions
I&P Vol. 39 No. 4 Build Your Volunteer Corps: Rights vs. Responsibilities
I&P Vol. 35 No. 2 When Is a Volunteer Not a Volunteer
I&P Vol. 41 No. 5 The Risk Management Assessment Process

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