Health and Safety Infection Prevention and Control training for Volunteers

Please read the training material below and then go back to the previous page.

Session Overview

Learning Objectives

  • Identify ways that are consistent with legislation, policies and procedures for maintaining our own and others’ health and safety
  • Define the meaning of hazard, risk and risk assessment
  • Recognise common hazards

Infection Prevention and Control

This chapter has been updated with additional guidance in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Infection and infectious diseases in humans are caused when harmful germs enter the body and grow. These germs are so small that they can only be seen using a microscope.

Infectious diseases, unlike other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, can spread from person to person. As with all illnesses, prevention is better than cure.

You have an important role to play in preventing the spread of infections. It is your responsibility to keep up to date with your own vaccinations in line with the UK vaccination schedule as it is your duty as an individual to avoid spreading infection. If you are carrying germs, you can transmit them to the people you support directly or you can transfer them from other people or equipment. This can be minimised by following good hand washing procedures, good personal hygiene habits and staying at home if you are ill.

Hand Hygiene

One of the most effective measures in the prevention of transmission of infection is improving hand hygiene. Hand hygiene can be performed using:

  • Soap and water
  • Hand sanitisers
  • Ensuring you are aware of and follow the guidelines in your organisation for hand hygiene

Regular and correct hand washing is vital to help prevent spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is designed to protect healthcare workers from exposure to potentially infectious material.

Make sure you know and use the appropriate PPE for the situation.

PPE equipment includes:

  • Gloves
  • Aprons/gowns
  • Masks
  • Protective eyewear

This is not an exhaustive list. It is your responsibility to use PPE in line with local policy and the requirements of your role. If your role involves the use of PPE, your organisation will provide additional training and support specific to the activity.

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, if you are working in a healthcare environment, all healthcare professionals and volunteers may be required to wear PPE when in contact with patients.

As a volunteer you will be advised of the precautions you have to take.

Your volunteer coordinator, or the healthcare staff you are working with, will advise you on whether you should wear PPE before you carry out your volunteer role.

Why is Health and Safety Important?

As health and safety is usually tailored to a number of approaches, dependent on which area in the organisation you volunteer for, there may be elements of the session that are not applicable to you. In particular, there are key tasks relating to health and safety that should not be carried out without special training.

How can your organisation ensure that it is committed to delivering services safely?

  • Wear any personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required
  • Follow policies and procedures
  • Report unsafe activities
  • Report unsafe situations or conditions – make them safe if you can without putting yourself at risk
  • Report accidents and near misses

What procedures and provisions are in place?

Some examples are:

  • Health and safety audits/inspections
  • Staff and volunteer training
  • Policies, guidelines and procedures
  • Safe work equipment and facilities
  • Risk assessments
  • Fire precautions
  • Safety signs
  • Employer’s liability insurance

The Legal Stuff

The law aims to:

  • Prevent people getting injured or suffering illness caused through work
  • Encourage high standards of health and safety

The law says:

  • You have a right to a safe workplace
  • Your organisation must keep you safe
  • You also have responsibility for your own safety

All organisations have legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees and volunteers.

Some of the legislation that may apply to you as a volunteer include:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974)
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
  • Manual Handling Operations (1992) (amended 2002)
  • Display Screen Equipment Regulations (1992) (amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (2002)
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) (2002)


If an organisation fails to meet its responsibilities and comply with health and safety legislation, it can have serious consequences. These include:

  • Prosecution, notices, fines and imprisonment
  • Claims and complaints
  • Damage to reputation, credibility and morale

You and your organisation have certain responsibilities in relation to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.

Organisation – It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his/her employees

Volunteer – No person shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health and safety. Volunteers should:

  • Take responsibility for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions
  • Co-operate with their organisation on health and safety issues
  • Be familiar with and follow policies, procedures and instructions
  • Report any accidents, damage, unsafe acts or conditions, near misses, or loss as soon as reasonably possible
  • Ensure that they immediately report any condition which may affect their ability to volunteer safely
  • Ensure that they attend any related training courses provided for them [

Risks and Hazards

What do we mean by risks and hazards?


hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm, for example:

  • Uneven or wet floors
  • Cables stretched across walkways
  • Hazardous materials such as cleaning products



Risk is the likelihood and consequences of that harm occurring.

Significant risk is capable of creating a real risk to health and safety.


Risks Assessment

In order to identify hazards that have the potential to cause harm and ensure that the associated risks are well controlled, you should:

  • Know about the hazards and risks in your organisation
  • Make sure the risks stay controlled

Risk is a part of everyday life:

  • You can’t eliminate them all
  • You can identify the significant risks that affect you
  • You should know what to do to manage them responsibly

This is a brief overview of risk assessment. As a volunteer you would not normally be responsible for undertaking formal risk assessments. If, however, there is an expectation that this will be your responsibility, you should seek further advice from your organisation.

There are five steps to carrying out a risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere. They are the biggest cause of serious injuries to others. To prevent slips, trips and falls:

  • Wear sensible, suitable footwear
  • Clean up and report spillages
  • Remove and report obstructions
  • Keep walkways and work areas clear and well lit
  • Plan cleaning schedules appropriately

Unfortunately, people can’t always be protected from harm. All volunteer workplaces involve people collaborating towards the well-being of those needing care or support. Mistakes happen through things like lack of knowledge, poor communication or not sharing information, stress, negligence or being distracted. Mistakes are seen as adverse events, incidents, errors or near misses.

Adverse Events – Action or lack of action that leads t unexpected, unintended and preventable harm.

Incidents – Specific negative events. Incidents are described as events which need investigation as they caused severe harm or damage to either the person receiving care or the organisation.

Errors – Not doing something as it should have been done, for example, through bad planning or being forgetful.

Near Misses – Situation where action could have harmed the individual but,  either by chance or purpose, was prevented.

Incidents and near misses should be reported:

  • To prevent/minimise risks and incidents
  • To learn from mistakes and make the appropriate change to prevent it from happening again
  • For a safer working environment
  • To comply with legislation
  • To comply with the organisation’s policies
  • To maintain a record of events and actions
  • To identify trends
  • To encourage openness and fairness

Moving and Assisting

The regulations define moving and handling as:

“Any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force.”

As a volunteer, you should only be expected to assist people rather than be responsible for actual handling tasks, for example, using specialist equipment to help get someone out of bed. So here we will refer to moving and assisting.

We are all at risk from moving and assisting injuries.

Managing Risk

In order to help manage any risks from manual assisting, you must follow these steps:

  1. You must avoid harmful manual assisting operations, so far as it is reasonably practicable.
  2. Assess the manual assisting operations that cannot be avoided
  3. Reduce the risk of injury so far as it is reasonably practicable.

Both the organisation and individual volunteers are responsible for ensuring they take steps to minimise injuries.

Organisation’s responsibilities

  • Implement relevant policies and guidelines
  • Undertake risk assessments
  • Provide training and guidance
  • Provide specialist equipment to support safer moving If appropriate

Volunteer’s responsibilities

  • Follow prescribed safe systems of volunteering
  • Be aware of, and understand your organisation’s moving and handling policy
  • Use equipment provided properly
  • Do not misuse or interfere with equipment provided for your safety
  • Tell your organisation if you identify hazardous handling activities or any defects in equipment
  • Ensure your activities don’t put others at risk

It is important to be able to identify situations where you should not carry out specific tasks, unless you have had specialist training

Common Injuries and Healthy Back Care

Common injuries

Musculoskeletal disorders to the back and limbs include:

  • Damage to:
    • Joints
    • Muscles
    • Tendons and ligaments
    • Intervertebral discs
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Hernias
  • Abrasions/bruises
  • Wear and tear
  • Fractures

Promoting healthy back care

Key activities include:

  • Always ensure a good posture
  • Try to use a chair with a backrest. Change how you sit every few minutes
  • Stay active and exercise. Particularly strengthen abdominal and back muscles
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce stress

The ergonomic approach to the assessment of risk involves fitting the job to the person, rather than the person to the job. TILE

T – Task – What does take include? Twisting, stooping, bending, pushing, pulling or sudden movement?

I – Individual capability – Is the person completing the task any of the following: Pregnant?, Disabled? Suffering from health problems?

L – Load – Is the load: Heavy? Difficult to grip? Sharp? Hot or cold? Unstable?

E – Environment – Within the environment, is/are there: Space constraints? Uneven or slippery flooring? Unstable flooring? Difficult floor levels? Hot, cold or humid conditions?

Session Summary

  • Your organisation’s policies, guidelines and procedures in relation to health, safety and welfare should be readily available
  • Any issues around health and safety should be reported/discussed with your volunteer coordinator

What can we all do to keep safe?

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Wear any personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required
  • Follow policies and procedures
  • Report unsafe activities
  • Report unsafe situations or conditions – make them safe if you can without putting yourself at risk
  • Report accidents and near misses



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