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May 13, 2013
Volunteers are essential to the operations of many non-profit organizations to fulfill their mission. Whether it’s an event or general operations, first or second-time volunteers are usually walking into a position with little to no training. Unfamiliarity with the environment and workflow can increase the risk of injury to the volunteer. In addition, it is possible they can cause damage to others accidentally.
In Washington State, Labor & Industries is the primary workers’ compensation carrier and volunteers can be added to your existing Washington State policy. The cost of insuring volunteers under the workers’ compensation policy is typically minimal and easy to include. If a volunteer is injured, medical compensation under the state system is available to them, but not wage compensation. This may become an issue if they are unable to work their normal job.
To fill in the potential gaps, we recommend adding volunteers to the workers’ compensation policy. Coverage for states outside Washington would apply in a similar manner, it is important to make sure you request the carrier add volunteers to the policy and confirm what rating basis they will use to develop the premium. Typically any additional premium would be collected at audit.
Insurance policies are most often purchased to meet the legal liability of the organization, both as required by law and for actions they perform. When an employee or volunteer is performing services on behalf of the organization, the organization becomes liable for their actions. Most liability policies automatically include coverage for the action of their employees, however, it is important to confirm the volunteers have also been included within the policy language.
Often we find insurance is not the highest priority item for many organizations. Understandably, they are focused on meeting their mission and insurance doesn’t come to mind until a claim happens. To avoid uncovered exposures, we recommend an annual or bi-annual discussion with your broker regarding your activities, how often you are using volunteers, and in what capacity. If volunteers are not already included in your policy, ask that they be added immediately.
It is an easy solution to protect the assets of the organization from actions of your volunteers. Contact the Not-for-Profit Practice Group if you have questions and need us to make changes to your policy.