Non-profits often make heavy use of volunteer labor. Volunteers can provide valuable services. However, they also pose a degree of danger to the operation.
Volunteers often function as unpaid employees. Should they make mistakes, those indiscretions could cause problems for others. This means that, in insurance terms, volunteers are liabilities to the business. Non-profits must therefore carry the appropriate coverage and observe precautions to guard against volunteer liabilities.
Insurance for Volunteer Liabilities
Let's say you run a food pantry, and allow volunteers to stock shelves. A volunteer stacks a set of canned goods in a way that causes them to tip over and fall on the head of a customer. The heavy cans might cause the customer head trauma. The injured person might subsequently sue the food pantry for medical expenses.
As a non-profit, the business likely has little on reserve to fight personal injury claims. In such cases, the non-profit might need to turn to its liability insurance coverage. Usually, liability insurance helps if the business or its employees cause damage to third parties. But sometimes, general liability insurance can provide a degree of coverage for these risks. That said, general liability insurance may not extend adequate coverage to volunteers of the business. This is a key reason why non-profits often invest in more expansive volunteer liability insurance to address volunteer risks. This more specific coverage can extend appropriate coverage specifically to volunteers.
Preventing Liability Insurance Claims
Even if you have volunteer liability insurance, never assume it covers everything. Liability policies often contain coverage limits and exclusions for volunteer risks. It's best to protect the business from all accidents. Besides this coverage, non-profits should take steps to prevent damage to third parties:
- Vet volunteers appropriately. Never hire a volunteer who might pose risks to clients.
- Establish a code of conduct for your volunteers. This code should instruct employees on proper procedures. They should familiarize themselves with this code and acknowledge their understanding of it in writing.
- Require employees to receive training and instruction in certain tasks. In particular, require training for sensitive equipment or tasks. And leave sensitive tasks up to the non-profit's employees. Don't delegate them to volunteers.
- Supervise employees at all times. Make sure they know what they are doing. Be available to answer questions for volunteers who need assistance.
By taking these steps, you avoid the need to file a liability insurance claim. And it's better to prevent accidents than to file a claim for damage.
Nonetheless, make sure you have strong volunteer liability insurance. Talk to a California Church Insurance Services agent about the nature of your non-profit, and how it will utilize volunteers. We can help you determine the type of coverage that best meets your needs.