13 Jun Make sure they volunteer their services – not their lives
Volunteering is certainly one of the noblest things we can do in our communities. In fact, many organizations couldn’t survive without the support of volunteers.
An excellent program in place in Ontario requires that high school students complete volunteer hours by the time they graduate. This program fosters volunteerism in young people that they will hopefully continue as they move forward in life.
Sadly, there are recorded instances when volunteers have succumbed to injury and even death while doing their volunteering. The hazards include falls from heights, contact with equipment, harmful substances and motor vehicle crashes.
While most parents are proud of their children’s volunteering, the questions they ask may relate to the organization, not the details associated with the work itself. And this includes whether they have or have not been correctly trained.
While most reputable organizations take the time to ensure volunteers are given full safety training, as parents it is dangerous to assume that. Given the temporary nature of student volunteer opportunities, there is a high turnover of kids and there are organizations who do not take the time to properly train them, or rush the process.
There is something that you can do as a parent.
Don’t just ask the obvious questions. Engage your working child in the details of their job. If it is of a physical nature, ask about personal protective equipment (PPE). Ask about environmental issues. These could be sustained noise, toxic gases or lengthy exposure to sun. If any of these are factors, there is very specific PPE that they should be issued. Ask them if they feel safe doing the work requested of them and if they’ve been properly trained. Also ask them about the equipment with which they interact. If there are any concerns, you can offer guidance in what they need to do to keep them out of harm’s way. This can include reminding them of their worker’s rights, including the right to refuse unsafe work, as well as simply expressing the fact that they are not trained on certain equipment and will not work with it until they are trained. It may turn out that this may be an oversight on the organization’s part and to which they will respond with proper training or re-assignment.
By having the above conversation, listening and following up with guidance for corrective action, you will be able to ensure your kid’s volunteer experience will be nothing less than rewarding for all involved.