Volunteer Safety during COVID-19
With the coronavirus pandemic that we are all facing, the need for volunteers is growing. Many are without jobs and stable income or unable to find food and basic needs due to school and organization closures and store storages. Your schools and organizations are stepping up to help and compassionate and thoughtful people are eager to help you. Are volunteers safe at this time when the nation is urged to practice social distancing? The answer is “yes, as safe as we make it”.
As volunteers once again begin donating their time, efforts, or resources, there are safety standards and precautions that your organizations can prepare and share with volunteers so they and those they work with remain healthy and safe. It is urgent to prioritize the safety and well-being of the volunteers and others in your schools and organizations. And, there are ways that volunteers can give back while protecting themselves and others. Ask your volunteers to do the following:
Use the recommended health precautions and the organization’s safety and health policies for your volunteers at all times.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after being in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should be provided in all public areas of your organization not just for your volunteers but for everyone in the organization.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people. This may mean changes in ways volunteers are helping.
- Cover your face with a cloth face cover when around others. This is for the protection of those that volunteers are helping.
- Follow schools or organizations’ safety policies.
Individuals at higher risk should avoid contact with others and plan to volunteer in isolated areas or working remotely.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. These individuals should consider opportunities that do not involve close physical contact with others. Volunteers may have remote duties of virtual opportunities.
Confirm the activity.
Let your volunteer know about activities and/or opportunities. Then, confirm with your volunteers that volunteer support is needed and essential. Let them know where and when to volunteer. Communicating with the volunteer, especially if the opportunity or event is canceled, is important. Please be kind, gracious, and understanding. And, when the volunteers arrive for the volunteer activities and/or opportunities, be prepared.
Ask volunteers to be prepared when volunteering.
Encourage your volunteers to carry all of the items that they may need during the volunteer shift. Ask them to take their water, antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of 60 percent or greater or let the volunteers know that you have these items. You may also ask your volunteers to provide their own snacks, phone charger. Remember to have them wear a mask and gloves if appropriate. Volunteers may be required to call ahead or email the organization to see if additional safety precautions should be taken during, and after the time allotted to volunteer.
Volunteers are the heart of our schools and organizations! We rely on them to reach organizational goals and accomplish the mission. Remind the volunteers again and again that their service is valuable! You want and need their support; however, you want your volunteers to stay healthy. If they are not feeling well, please ask them to protect themselves and others and stay home.