Health, safety and welfare procedure
What you need to do to maintain a safe environment for guiding
Published May 2023
Last updated November 2023
See change log for recent updates
At Girlguiding, we’re committed to the health, safety and welfare of our young members and volunteers.
This procedure is for all volunteers. It explains the steps you need to take to make Girlguiding a safe environment for yourself and others.
Not following our policy and procedure means you could be held personally liable for an accident or incident. And it could lead to your Girlguiding membership being suspended or withdrawn in line with our managing concerns about adult volunteers policy. So it’s important you understand what you need to do. If you have any queries, questions or doubts, talk to your commissioner or email [email protected].
You must always use the official Girlguiding forms. This is so we can support you if there’s an accident or incident.
If you’re a commissioner, you’re responsible for making sure volunteers in your area follow this procedure.
Have a look at our volunteer organisation chart to check what your responsibilities are.
Remember: if you find yourself in a situation you think is unsafe or could cause harm to someone, you must take action to stop it.
The steps you need to take
To meet your responsibilities for health, safety and welfare as a Girlguiding volunteer you need to (click the links to go to each section on this page) :
- Check your venue is appropriate
- Risk assess your venue and activities
- Get parent or carer consent
- Check you have the right insurance
- Check your ratios
- Be prepared for emergencies
- Respond to accidents and incidents
- Do a fire drill with young members and adult volunteers
- Check volunteer training is up to date
- Follow our lone volunteering guidance
- Make sure you open and close your unit meeting place safely
- Follow our manual handling guidance
- Make sure all volunteers and visitors have completed the correct checks and forms
- Set up a home contact system if needed
- Complete our residential event notification (REN) form for residential events
- Follow our guidance on home hospitality
- Complete the right forms before any trip or event
- Regularly review the change log for this procedure for any updates
Check your meeting venue is appropriate
If you need help when choosing a new venue, have a look at our handy new venue requirements checklist. The checklist isn’t compulsory, but it’s a good way to help you make sure you haven’t missed anything important. We’ve tried to cover all factors, but we know not all buildings are the same and there may be different things you need to think about.
Meetings or activities that involve young members in private homes and gardens aren’t allowed. However, volunteers aged 16 and over, like young leaders and young external volunteers, can go to adult volunteer meetings in private homes and gardens.
In very exceptional circumstances, HQ may give approval for meetings to take place in a private outdoor space.
There must be:
- Public liability insurance in place.
- An access route that isn’t through the private home.
- Toilets that can be accessed without going through the private home.
- An effective way to contact the emergency services if needed.
Get in touch with volunteer support for more information.
Risk assess your venue and activities
When you fill in the risk assessment we don’t expect you to remove all risks, just to reduce them as much as possible.
Doing a risk assessment will help you decide if it’s safe for your activity or event to go ahead. Don’t forget to share any relevant information from your risk assessment with everyone running or taking part in your meeting or event.
Pre-filled risk assessment forms
You must risk assess your venue and activities at least once a year. The pre-filled risk assessment forms are tools to make it easier to complete your risk assessment. They will support you to risk assess your unit meeting place and any activities taking place during the unit meeting, including in outside areas.
They're pre-filled with all the foreseeable risks you need to be aware of, so that they're much easier to use and complete than the blank forms. But you don’t have to use them - you can still use the blank risk assessment forms if you’d prefer.
The pre-filled risk assessment for unit meeting venues and activities only needs to be done once a year then reviewed termly. Commissioners don’t need to sign off this risk assessment unless it’s the unit’s first face-to-face meeting since March 2020.
Blank risk assessment forms
You don’t need to use the pre-filled risk assessment forms – if you prefer, you can still use the blank risk assessment forms linked below. You still need to do a risk assessment, whichever form you use. If you’re using the blank risk assessment, you must do this each term. And make sure you risk assess your venue once a year too. Here’s an example of what a blank risk assessment form might look like when it’s been filled in.
Information to help you do this:
- When to do a risk assessment
- Property health and safety guidance
- Health and safety for hired spaces
- Food safety guidance
- Safe online guiding
- Find an activity
- Being prepared (PDF)
- Example risk assessment for village hall (Excel)
- Reasonable adjustments
- Organising transport for events and activities
Get parent or carer consent
You should let parents and carers know about all the activities you’ve got planned each term. Let them know any safety information, and remind them about any regular safety arrangements, for example around pick-up and drop-off.
You’ll need to get specific parent or carer consent for any activities that are:
- Outside of your usual meeting times
- Away from your meeting place
You can list all your activities for the term on one consent form to make it easier.
Here are the forms to use, plus some more information to help:
- Information and consent for event/activity form (PDF)
- Information and consent for event/activity form (Word)
- Virtual meeting parent/carer consent form (PDF)
- Virtual meeting parent/carer consent form (Word)
- Getting permission
- Adventure for girls
Check you have the right insurance
Girlguiding has public liability insurance. This covers Girlguiding members, or anyone acting on behalf of Girlguiding, when they’re taking part in a recognised guiding activity.
If you’re using a space Girlguiding doesn’t own or manage, you’ll need to check it has public liability insurance cover for up to £5 million. The management for your unit meeting place may also want to see Girlguiding’s public liability insurance certificate. See our certificate and more information about public liability.
If you have employees, display a copy of our employers’ liability certificate and make sure everyone is aware of the cover.
If you own or manage a building, make sure you renew your buildings and content insurance each year. You might need to insure equipment separately. You should also check our insurance advice for property owners.
If you use your car for any Girlguiding activities, you must check that your car insurance covers this. If you need to, let your insurer know what you’ll be doing. Take a look at our drivers handbook (PDF) and information about vehicle insurance too.
If you’re travelling abroad, you must have travel insurance. If your trip is within the country you live in, you won’t need travel insurance, but you still need to think about all the risks when you complete your risk assessment. Large or expensive trips, and large-scale events will need their own insurance.
Check your ratios
At every meeting you hold, you’ll need to have appropriate ratios of adult volunteers to young members.
Find out more about adult to child ratios.
Be prepared for emergencies
Make sure all the documents in your emergency file are up to date at least once a year. You’ll need these if there’s an emergency or incident. You should have your emergency file, including the emergency contact list, with you at all meetings and activities, and everyone in your team should know where to find it. Visit the help zone in GO to find out how to generate the emergency contact list for your unit.
You must also have an appropriately stocked first aid kit at your unit meeting place. Replace anything you use or that’s out of date at least once a term. Check our list of the recommended minimum contents you need in a first aid kit, but you may want to include other items too. For example, if you’re doing adventurous activities, you may need some extras compared to a normal unit meeting. Don’t forget to think about this when you do your risk assessments.
More information to help:
Respond to accidents and incidents
If anyone is seriously injured or ill during a guiding activity or on Girlguiding property, you need to fill out a notification of accident or incident form. You’ll need to speak to the young member’s parent or carer so they know what happened too. You must also tell your local commissioner immediately.
Serious injuries or illnesses are those that need first aid or treatment from a medical professional. If you’re not sure, email our insurance team at [email protected].
Send the form and any extra documents to our insurance team. You can post them to Girlguiding HQ or send them by email to [email protected]. Keep a copy of the form until we let you know we’ve received it. Then you can safely destroy it.
For minor incidents or injuries, you don’t need to fill out a form unless someone received significant first aid or there were further developments, like a cut getting infected or a visit to the doctors. But you’ll still need to let the parent or carer know what happened.
In the event of a serious accident or death, you must contact Girlguiding’s emergency PR line immediately. The number is 020 7592 1733 during office hours or 020 7592 1891 out of office hours.
If the venue or someone’s property is damaged during a guiding activity, you should also contact our insurance team.
More information to help:
Do a fire drill with young members and adult volunteers
At least once a year, practice what you would do if there was a fire at your meeting place. If possible the venue management should conduct the evacuation, but if this isn’t practical you can just walk through the evacuation process. If you have any issues or concerns, report these to the appropriate person. This could be the venue manager or your commissioner.
Make sure any new members or visitors to your venue know what to do if there’s a fire.
If you visit another venue for activities or events, check that everyone knows the fire evacuation procedure and where the assembly point is.
More information to help:
- Fire safety
- How to use a fire extinguisher (PDF)
- Health and safety for hired spaces
- Health and safety guidance for small properties (PDF)
- Doing Our Best safety and safeguarding checklists
Check volunteer training is up to date
We have lots of training opportunities available for our volunteers around health, safety and welfare. You can find our e-learning courses and webinars on our learning platform.
Your local area will run their own a safe space and 1st response training sessions. They may also offer other training not designed by Girlguiding.
One person at every unit meeting, activity or event must have a valid first aid qualification. This could be our 1st response training or an external qualification. Your local commissioner must check any external qualifications to make sure they cover everything in the 1st response syllabus. Here are a list of first aid qualifications we accept. You’ll still need to complete the 1st response e-learning, as this tells you about being a first aider for Girlguiding.
We encourage all our volunteers to complete our 1st response training. It’s especially useful for commissioners, leaders, young leaders, unit helpers and helpers at other levels.
A safe space
All volunteers need to have the correct level of a safe space training for their role. And units can’t meet without at least one leader who holds a safe space level 3.
Want to build your skills in other areas?
- Our risky business webinar will take you through the risk assessment process – you can find it on our learning platform.
- Our leadership development programme includes a course on managing safety and risk.
- Our going away with scheme covers health and safety for residential events.
Follow our lone volunteering guidance
Lone volunteering is when you do volunteering activities on your own, like meeting a prospective volunteer to do ID verification, or delivering paperwork and equipment.
Lone volunteering can be risky, so you should try to avoid it if possible.
Girlguiding doesn’t expect you to put yourself in any situation where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you’re worried about lone volunteering, talk to your commissioner.
Take steps to reduce the risks of lone volunteering:
- Don’t enter or remain in a situation that makes you feel unsafe.
- Have a plan for what to do in an emergency.
- If you’re meeting others, try to do it in a public place.
- Let someone know where you’re going to be and when to expect you back. If you’re going to be away for more than a couple of hours, arrange to check-in by phone with them.
- Carry a mobile phone and set up speed dial keys for emergency numbers and your home contact. Consider registering your device to a mobile phone tracker.
- Don’t do anything at height, like using ladders or going into a loft or attic.
Always think about your own health and wellbeing. Just because you’ve volunteered alone once doesn’t mean you should do it again.
If you’re a commissioner, you need to make sure anyone volunteering alone:
- Has the support they need, and knows who and how to ask for support
- Has completed a risk assessment if necessary
- Makes changes to keep themselves safe after any accidents, incidents or near misses
Make sure you open and close your unit meeting place safely
Opening and closing a unit meeting place is an important responsibility, so you need to make sure you know what to do. You might want to make a checklist, especially if your venue has given you specific instructions to follow, such as setting alarms or opening windows for ventilation.
Every meeting place is different, but at a minimum you should visually check the space for any issues when opening and closing. For example, making sure nothing is blocking the emergency exits and there aren’t any trip hazards on the floor.
When leaving you must check that no one is left in the space before locking any doors, and that all young members have left safely.
If you have any concerns about opening or closing your unit meeting place, speak to the unit meeting place management or your commissioner.
Follow our manual handling guidance
If you need to carry or move any large or heavy objects, it’s important you know how to do this safely.
- Stop and think about the object and how much you can carry.
- Check the surface of the object before you lift it.
- Plan where you’re going and make sure there’s nothing in the way.
- Get help if you need it.
- Pass items down, rather than trying to carry them down a ladder.
- When you lift something, keep your feet apart and your knees bent. Try to keep the object close to you and avoid twisting your body as you move.
- Avoid repetitive tasks.
A useful acronym to help you decide whether it’s safe to move an object is TILE.
- Task: What is it you’re going to move and how? Will you be pushing, pulling, lifting or carrying?
- Individual: Are you capable of moving the object? Do you need help?
- Load: Think about the size, shape and weight of the object?
- Environment: Is the area easy to move around in and free from any hazards?
Make sure all volunteers and visitors have completed the correct checks and forms
If you have parent or carer helpers, make sure they help out no more than twice a term. Otherwise they’ll need to become registered volunteers. Read more about involving parents and carers.
If you’re inviting a visitor to join your unit or come to an event, follow our guidance and fill out an external visitors agreement form.
Set up a home contact system if needed
If any of your activities take place away from your usual unit meeting place, you may want to set up a home contact system in case of emergency. You can decide if this is appropriate based on the activity and where it’s taking place.
If you’re going on a day trip or residential, you must have a home contact system in place.
More information to help:
- Setting up a home contact system
- Home contact role outline (Word)
- Home contact role outline (PDF)
- Home contact role outline for international trips (Word)
- Home contact role outline for international trips (PDF)
Complete our residential event notification (REN) form for residential events
You must complete a REN form for all residential events, including:
- Events taking place in your home country
- Events taking place abroad
- Organised events, like a jamboree
The REN form includes everything you need to do to make sure your residential event is as safe as possible. This includes carrying out risk assessments, having appropriate insurance in place, and having health information forms for all young members. Find out more about the REN process.
GO is the best place to fill out the form. GO will automatically check everyone has the right training and recruitment checks in place. It also helps your commissioner keep track of all the residential events happening.
At jamborees and other international events in the UK and abroad, guiding groups often need a place to stay. The whole group must stay together, for example in a hall, school or campsite, so girls have a great experience in a supervised and safe environment. This is called group hosted hospitality.
When doing group hosted hospitality, you must keep to all residential rules, such as having separate sleeping and washing areas if there are boys or men present.
Young members can’t take part in home hospitality. Home hospitality is when girls stay with the families of guiding or scouting members from the area they are visiting and live as part of the family.
Adult volunteers of Girlguiding are allowed to take part in home hospitality if they want to. Read more about home hospitality and what needs to be done to keep everyone safe.
Complete the right form for any trip or event
Trip or event type
Activity away from unit meeting place, but at the usual time
Residential in the UK
April 2023 – Added links to the new pre-filled risk assessment template for activities.
June 2023 – New section added under Complete the right forms for any trip or event to explain when to use which forms.
June 2023 – Added links to the new pre-filled pregnancy risk assessment and personal emergency evacuation plan.
September 2023 - Minor change made to the pre-filled unit risk assessment template, personal emergency evacuation plan, and pregnancy risk assessment. You don't need to redo these forms.
September 2023 - Risk factors in pregnancy risk assessment updated. Please use this updated version.
November 2023 - Added links to the new pre-filled risk assessment for new unit venues.