Risk Assessments: Keeping Volunteers Safe

bopnoglogIn every task the Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers undertake, there are varying elements of risk.
From the moment we start loading the van to when we leave a site at the end of the day (even when having a cup of tea!) there’s a chance that someone may get hurt. Fortunately, the only injuries sustained on task days have thus far been minor, and long may that situation remain the same.

It is due to these risks that the Biodiversity team have decided to reevaluate and expand on their risk assessments for each nature site, ensuring that volunteers are aware of any changes or tweaks in the assessment.
Previously, risk assessments have been conveyed through short, casual talks throughout the day depending on the task at hand and the tools being used. This technique has served us well over the years, shown by the very low accident and injury rate. While the volunteers are aware of the risks inherent in various jobs and have been briefed on how to minimise the dangers encountered in the field, as all of the assessments have been delivered orally, there is no written record of it and therefore a liability on the Biodiversity team’s part if someone was to get hurt.

In order to remedy this in future, detailed risk assessments will be available for each site and will be signed by each volunteer before heading out on a task day. Initially at least, the task leader will go through the risk assessment thoroughly with the volunteers to ensure everyone fully appreciates what the day will entail before signing it. This can cost us some time on task days but will be worth it to keep everyone safe. Once the risk assessments become more familiar it may be appropriate to change to a less in depth ‘skim’ of the assessment, with a more conversational aspect. We won’t have to sit through a lecture each morning forever!

Through these talks, everyone involved in task day activities should become more aware of the specific risks involved in different tasks and sites.
A greater understanding of the risks and risk mitigation involved in planning a task day will be another step towards empowering the Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers, allowing further autonomy and independence.
With the recent(ish) First Aid, Manual Handling and Risk Assessment training for volunteers a large body of communal knowledge is being built.
Knowledge is power, so soon enough we’ll be taking over the world and filling it with wild flowers!