Health, safety and welfare policy

Our responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare of our volunteers members and anyone in contact with us

Approved: July 2021
Version: 2.1
Content owner: Safe Practice

We have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of our volunteers, members and anyone who comes into contact with us through our work and activities.

We support our volunteers to create a safe space for girls and young women to have great experience and reach their full potential.

As Girlguiding volunteers, you must put the health, safety and welfare of our members front and centre of everything you do.

The health, safety and welfare policy applies to all volunteers, and sets out our expectations and your responsibilities and behaviours. This policy applies wherever Girlguiding delivers activities in the UK or overseas, as well as when we partner with other organisations.

It is the overarching policy that links the responsibilities and expectations of volunteers to all our other policies and procedures in this area. You must follow it when leading, delivering, supporting or in any way taking part in Girlguiding activities. By following this policy you will ensure that your actions comply with Girlguiding expectations and the law.

The health, safety and welfare of our volunteers and members is of paramount importance to all involved in Girlguiding. Failure to follow this policy or a breach of the procedures will result in compliance action.

  • Health – complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Not just the absence of disease or infirmity.
  • Safety - being protected from and not causing danger, risk, injury, illness, loss or harm. Like a feeling, a physical object or place, an action.
  • Welfare - proactive steps for health, happiness and wellbeing of a person. Factors include security, safety, comfort and positive choices.
  • So far as reasonably practicable - the extent to which a risk can be controlled weighed against the measures taken to control it.
  • Safe - a situation where, as far as reasonably practicable, all reasonable steps have been taken to understand the nature of the risks involved. And suitable steps have been taken to control the risks and reduce them to an acceptable level.
  • Safe space - a supportive and accessible environment, free from harm, where everyone can reach their full potential.
  • Duty of care - the legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your services, or exposed to your activities.
  • Volunteer - anyone who gives their time to Girlguiding without being paid. This covers all volunteering roles within Girlguiding, including volunteers who have a leadership role, who work directly with girls or who are supporting members with no direct contact with girls. A volunteer may also be a member of Girlguiding. They may be a young volunteer, aged under 18, or an adult over 18.
  • Commissioner - a volunteer manager at any level including country, region, county, division or district level.
  • Wellbeing – the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.
  • Risk assessment – a method for identifying hazards and the likelihood or potential to do harm. The process should identify what must be put in place to either get rid of the risk or control it to an acceptable level. Risk assessments may be in writing in advance of an activity or dynamic while it is taking place.
  • Hazard – something that has the potential to cause harm or damage
  • Severity – the extent of harm or damage. Options on our risk assessments are slight, harmful, or extremely harmful.
  • Likelihood – the chances of harm or damage occurring. Options on our risk assessments are unlikely, likely, or very likely.
  • Risk – on our risk assessment, this is likelihood combined with severity.
  • Mitigations – actions you can take to minimise potential harm.
  • Common law – laws made by judges’ decisions, rather than statue or legislation
  • Private home and garden – the land immediately surrounding a house or dwelling. This  can include any closely associated buildings or structures forming one enclosure with it, delineating a boundary within which a home owner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Girlguiding and the law

In the UK

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the general responsibility that Girlguiding has to protect people from risks to their health and safety, arising out of or in connection with Girlguiding activities.

Girlguiding has a legal duty to follow the principles set out in the Act and subsequent regulations so far as is reasonably practicable. This policy is written to guide volunteers’ actions in order to ensure that they do what is necessary in order to reduce risk and prevent harm.

Under common law, voluntary organisations and individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others that may be affected by their activities.

So as a volunteer you have a legal responsibility to protect yourself and anyone else who may take part in, or otherwise be affected by our activities.

Outside of the UK

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does not apply outside of the UK. In order to provide the same level of protection to all our members we expect you to follow this policy whilst guiding outside of the UK.

As a Girlguiding volunteer it’s your responsibility to check local regulations and act in accordance with these when delivering activities. Where there are differences between this policy and local regulations, you must follow the one that demonstrates the highest standard of reducing risk and preventing harm.

To get more information and to make sure you’re acting in the right way, you must look at this policy and its procedures and, where necessary, check with country and region offices. British Guiding Overseas (BGO) - including branches - should consult the BGO chief commissioner.

Girlguiding’s expectations

As a volunteer you must create and maintain safe and healthy environments, online and in person, for our members, volunteers and other people who may take part in or be affected by our activities - including yourself.

Through your activities you must actively promote the health, safety and welfare of all members and volunteers. This means taking all reasonable steps to assess hazards and identify mitigations in order to manage risk. This enables us to offer fun but challenging activities that helps people learn new things and grow.

The health, safety and welfare policy, procedures and any related guidance are here to support you and help you to do this. You must refer to all of our policies for specific areas of health, safety and welfare, together with related procedures, guidance, information and forms. This includes:

Commissioners may need to refer to additional guidance on the website.

Girlguiding will support all our members and volunteers to develop the knowledge and ability to take the appropriate level of responsibility for their own health, safety and welfare.

Girlguiding will support by:

  • Providing information, guidance and training for volunteers on health, safety and welfare.
  • Providing insurance to cover Girlguiding employees and members
  • Responding positively and proactively to comments, concerns and complaints about the way we do things, and being committed to continuously improving what we do.

What specific responsibilities do I have in my role?

Whatever your volunteer role, you have a responsibility for health, safety and welfare.

As a volunteer you must:

  • Promote and manage the health, safety and welfare of everyone involved in the activities.
  • Eliminate or reduce – as far as is reasonably practicable - the likelihood of any accident, injury, illness or other incident happening as a result of Girlguiding activities. You do this by establishing and maintaining safe and healthy environments and practices, with adequate control measures in place.
  • Promote appropriate and measured risk management. This includes finding the balance between activities being enjoyable and challenging, and activities being safe. It's not possible to remove all risk, as doing this can reduce or remove the potential to learn, enjoy and thrive.
  • Be competent to carry out your role. Make sure you understand what is expected of you and let us know if you need reasonable adjustments or additional support. This includes being mindful of your own mental and physical health and wellbeing.
  • Establish and maintain effective systems for reporting, monitoring and responding to any emergencies, illness, accidents, injuries or other incidents in relation to health, safety and welfare.
  • Ensure that any activities, venues and locations that you use that are not covered by Girlguiding insurance have appropriate insurance cover that you take out yourself or is supplied by the provider.
  • Make sure all equipment and resources used in Girlguiding activities are safe to use.
  • Carry out regular, tailored and site-specific risk assessments for premises, property, activities and individuals, and use that assessment to decide whether it is safe to go ahead. This includes online activities. Meetings or any other Girlguiding activities that involve young members (anyone under 18 years) in private homes and gardens are prohibited. This applies to guiding in the UK and in BGO. Planning meetings involving adult volunteers only (anyone 18 years and over) are not affected by this.

Volunteers with a leadership or senior role, such as leader or commissioner, will have specific responsibilities in relation to their role.

How should I behave? Health, safety and welfare behaviours

As a volunteer you are responsible for making sure your activities comply with this policy. To help you fulfil our health, safety and welfare commitment you must follow these health, safety and welfare behaviours and the code of conduct at all times:

  • Be accountable. Health, safety and welfare is important to everyone in Girlguiding. You must understand what is expected of you and meet your responsibilities by being familiar with and following our policies and procedures.
  • Think first. Plan your activities by doing a risk assessment to maintain safe practices.
  • Be alert. Girlguiding activities take place in dynamic environments where things can change quickly. Always be vigilant to ensure that an unacceptable risk to members, individuals or groups does not develop. This is part of the continual process of managing risk.
  • Take action. It's your responsibility to take action if you have any concerns about the health, safety or welfare of any individual or group involved in Girlguiding activities. Never assume it's being dealt with by someone else. This includes when assessed risk has changed or increased and needs to be brought under control.
  • Set a positive example. As a volunteer you're also a role model. Girls and young women will look to you to see how to respond to and deal with health, safety and welfare issues. Always set a positive example that you would wish them to follow.
  • Be open and honest. Communicate openly and honestly. Recognise and share good practice and report any questions, concerns, difficulties accidents or near misses to your unit leader or commissioner - we can always do things better by learning from these.