When Engaging Volunteers

Liability Exposure of Volunteers

There are three areas of potential liability related to the university engaging volunteers:

Liability of the Volunteer to Third Parties

Just like any individual, a volunteer is potentially liable for the consequences of their actions. In carrying out their volunteer duties, an individual could be sued by a third party.

Liability of the university to the volunteer:

The university has obligations to volunteers just as it does to employees in terms of providing a safe working environment and adhering to fair recruitment, supervision and termination practices.

Liability of the university of engaging the volunteer (vicarious liability):

Volunteers acting on behalf of the university expose the university to potential liability, should their volunteer actions result in harm or loss to a third party.

Volunteer Risk Management

In order to manage the risks and liabilities inherent in volunteer activities, university faculties and departments should follow these guidelines:

  • All volunteers must be registered by means of a Volunteer Form, which clarifies their duties, reporting relationship and duration of their volunteer service. This form also provides the volunteer with information about liability and insurance matters.
  • Departments registering volunteers are responsible for ensuring that the volunteer receives adequate training, including safety training where appropriate, for carrying out their duties.
  • Volunteers should be at least 18 years old. In exceptional circumstances involving low-risk activities, volunteers may be under 18 but this must be arranged in advance with the Insurance & Risk Assessment office.
  • If a volunteer is involved in a situation that may give rise to liability (i.e. they are injured, their property is damaged, or they are involved in a situation involving injury or damage to a third party), the incident must be reported immediately to Protective Services. Protective Services will in turn report the incident to the Office of Insurance & Risk Assessment.

Additional Information

Where appropriate, volunteers are to be reminded that the university does not provide insurance coverage for personal vehicles. Volunteers who will be driving their own personal vehicles should be advised that they are responsible for providing their own insurance.

This information does not apply to volunteers with student clubs or the Students Union, which operate independently of the university.

Faculties, departments, research projects/work and university activities requiring volunteers must complete and sign the Volunteer Form.

The original form is to be kept on file by the originating department for a minimum of five years for insurance purposes. A copy can be provided to the volunteer if they so request. In the event of an incident, the Office of Insurance & Risk Assessment will then request this form from the department.