Health, safety and welfare policy

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

Approved: May 2020
Version: 1
Content owner: Safe Practice

Girlguiding recognises our responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare of our volunteers, members and anyone in contact with us through our work and activities.

We aim to make sure this is never compromised, by supporting volunteers to create a safe space in which girls and young women can have great experiences and reach their full potential.

As Girlguiding volunteers, you must have the health, safety and welfare of our members at the centre of everything that you do.

This health, safety and welfare policy is for all volunteers. It’s the overarching policy that links your responsibilities and expectations as a volunteer to all of 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.

The policy applies wherever Girlguiding delivers activities, including within and outside of the UK and when we are partnering with other organisations. By following this policy you will ensure that your actions comply with Girlguiding expectations.

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

Girlguiding and the law

Within the UK

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

Girlguiding has a responsibility so far as is reasonably practicable to follow the duties set out in the Act and subsequent regulations. This policy is written to guide volunteers’ actions in order to ensure that they have made necessary arrangements 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 others who may 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.

It is your responsibility to check local regulations and take these into account 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 about this and make sure you act in the right way, you must refer to the relevant sections of this policy and where necessary country and region offices. British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO), including branches, should consult the BGO chief commissioner.

Health a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely 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 - promotion and proactive steps for health, happiness and wellbeing of a person. Factors include security, safety, comfort and positive choices.

Safe - a situation where, as far as reasonably practicable, all reasonable steps have been taken to understand the nature of the risks involved and to ensure that 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 (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 – 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.

Girlguiding’s expectations

As a volunteer you must create and maintain safe and healthy environments for our members, volunteers and other people who may take part in or be affected by our activities. This includes taking reasonable care of 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 and manage risk, whilst keeping a level of challenge.

The health, safety and welfare policy, procedures and any related guidance aim to support you and enable you to do this. And you must refer to all of our policies for specific areas of health, safety and welfare, together with related procedures, guidance, information and forms. 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.
  • 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. 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 is 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.
  • Make sure all equipment and resources used in Girlguiding activities are safe to use.
  • Carry out regular and tailored risk assessments for premises, property, activities and individuals, and use that assessment to decide whether it is safe to go ahead.

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

How must 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 managing the risk.
  • Take action. It is 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 is 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 are 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.