Before you go
You’ve found a placement – now what?
- Register your trip on Smart Traveller
- Have a look at the GLP colloquia and think tanks and book into any that might help you prepare for your placement
Looking after your health and safety while volunteering
Just like any other organisation, volunteer organisations should (as far as reasonably practicable) ensure the physical and mental health and safety of their volunteers. In Australia, we have Work Healthy and Safety (WHS) laws in place to ensure everyone is safe at work. The country and organisation you’re volunteering with might not have WHS laws or policies, so it’s important you do your own research and talk to your host organisation about WHS.
Volunteer ready checklist
Use this checklist to get started on thinking about your health and safety while overseas:
- Medical and health conditions: Does your host organisation ask you to disclose any medical or health conditions? If you do disclose a condition, is there support in place to make any necessary adjustments to make sure you have a productive and enjoyable time?
- Vaccinations and medical checks: Will you need any vaccinations for the country you are visiting? Does your volunteer organisation cover any of these? It’s a good idea to visit your doctor well before you depart to get health and vaccination advice for the country you will visit and to ensure you have any medication and supporting documentations you need for your trip.
- Fit for the job: Will the volunteer placement require you to do heavy lifting, extensive walking or physical activity? Make sure you are fit for the physical demands of the tasks, and remember, you’ll be doing these in a new environment and climate, so you might need to do some training beforehand to make sure you’re ready for the work.
- Qualifications for the job: Will you need any qualifications or licenses to undertake your volunteer work? A driver’s license? A Working with Children’s Check?
- Training: Will you be provided with training to make sure you can do your job safely? If you are working with vulnerable groups, you should receive training that takes their health and safety into account.
- Supervisor: Will you have a supervisor who can provide you with advice, training and guidance?
- Equipment: What equipment does the organisation provide? The country you’re volunteering in might not use the same safety equipment we use here, for example closed shoes, so have a think about what you might need to bring from home.
- Emergency response: What do you do if there is an emergency? Who can you contact? Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you should do in the case of an emergency while you’re away.
- Travel insurance: Does your host organisation have insurance that you can access? Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance and check that it covers you for volunteering. Some insurance will only cover you for travel.
Your responsibilities as a volunteer
As a volunteer it’s important you:
- Take reasonable care of your own health and safety and don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others.
- Carry out your volunteering in a safe way.
- Follow the WHS instructions, policies and procedures of your host organisation.
Want to know more?
- Read Safe Work Australia’s Essential Guide to Work Health and Safety for Volunteers, but remember this is written for an Australian context so you should research the WHS policies and procedures of the country and organisation you’ll be visiting.