April is Volunteer Month

Let’s spread some cheer for our great volunteers!

This month the focus is on Volunteers in the workplace. Volunteer involvement is vital for strong and connected communities and provides organizations with indispensable skills, talents and perspectives.

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate the impact volunteers have in our communities.  April 24 – 30, 2022 is National Volunteer Week, how will you celebrate?

Volunteers as Workers

In Alberta, volunteers are covered by the OHS Act; however, there must be a “volunteer-employer relationship” established first.  There are 3 conditions that need to be met to create such a relationship according to AB legislation:

  1. The organization requests the volunteer’s participation to perform work for the organization;
  2. The organization accepts volunteers to do the work (informally or formally); and
  3. The volunteer performs or takes part in the work.

OHS legislation does not apply when a volunteer decides on their own to provide a service without the organization’s knowledge, and the organization did not request the service, for example if a group decided to get together to do independent fund raising or a group of residents volunteering their time as a support group for others in the community.  Volunteer Canada has a Screening Handbook; Tools and Resources for The Voluntary Sector to help build awareness and capacity to screen volunteers.  You may also find the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement a great tool for resources. 

Volunteers who meet these conditions are covered by the same legislation as any other worker and have the same rights as all other workers at the worksite: 1) the Right to Know, 2) the Right to Participate, 3) the Right to Refuse Dangerous Work.   Employers are responsible for the safety of volunteers, and volunteers, in turn, have safety responsibilities to the employer and any other work site parties at your organization.

In a nutshell, workers and volunteers are responsible for:

  • Ensuring the health and safety of themselves and others,
  • Cooperating with the employer/supervisor for purposes of health and safety,
  • Using all devices and wear all required personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • Reporting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and
  • Refraining from causing or participating in violence and harassment.

Employers, you are responsible for ensuring your workers and volunteers know about their rights and responsibilities under the OHS legislation. 

Engaging volunteers and inspiring their participation is an important aspect of many organizations.  Screening of volunteers is critical to the success and safety of volunteerism in Alberta.   Volunteer Alberta has designed a screening program for nonprofit organizations to use across Alberta, including a video on 10 steps to screening Highlights, as well as a Volunteer Screening Program Policies and Procedures Workbook.  

Celebrate Your Volunteers!

Recognition Strategies

Did you know that according to a 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study by Volunteer Canada and Investors Group, “Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the impact of their contributions.”  This is an easy and inexpensive way to show appreciation to the work our Volunteers do every day!  Volunteering Australia article “101 ways to recognize your volunteers”, has great ideas on ways to celebrate your volunteers.  Employers can also share this Volunteer recognition tool with volunteers to get their feedback on how to recognize them.  

Volunteer Canada has other resources such as Ten ways to make your organization youth-Friendly.  Be sure to check out their website

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