For many months nonprofit organizations around the world have stopped and volunteer programs that work directly in the community to protect both their volunteers and community members. However, much of the work that volunteers perform in communities is essential, from food banks to community care programs people rely on programs that are worked by volunteers. After many months of a standstill, it is now time to consider how to get volunteers back to work safely to start offering the community essential services.
Contact Health Authorities
In the past few months, rules and regulations have been in a state of constant change to respond to the ever-changing health requirements of each community and region quickly. That is why it's so important to keep up with your local health authorities' rules and regulations. Open up a line of communication with them to ensure you are aware of and adhering to the proper procedures to ensure you keep your staff, volunteers, and greater community safe.
Volunteers worldwide have stepped up to the plate to provide essential services to vulnerable groups in their communities, showing that people are still motivated to make a positive impact, even with the added health risks. Organizations now have to find new and innovative ways to keep volunteers and community members safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Evaluating Risks When Working In The Community
Before you commence any planning, it is essential to take time to properly evaluate the health and safety risks associated with your volunteer program or initiative. As always, your top priority is ensuring that all your volunteers and community members remain safe and healthy.
This evaluation is all about reviewing your program's characteristics and its activities and how they may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Here is a list of characteristics that should be considered during this evaluation:
- Are volunteers in direct contact with members of the greater community? Consider how you can limit interactions and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to your volunteers to mitigate risk factors.
- Are your volunteer's members of high-risk categories? For example, are they above the age of 65? Consider alternative work that is remote for these volunteers to ensure they are protected from infections.
- Do volunteers operate in a single location zone or multiple? For example, you can assign volunteers to a location zone or bubble to further limit interaction with community members and assist with contact tracing.
Planning Measures For Your Volunteer Program
Once you have completed a thorough risk assessment for your volunteer program with the help and cooperation of local and national health authorities, it is time to start working out a more detailed plan for your program that addresses the risks determined in the evaluation phase. The planning phase is all about developing and testing preventative measures to keep everyone safe and informed while working in the community.
Here are some new documents and procedures you will need to create prior to recruiting volunteers and commencing work in the community.
COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocol Training For All Volunteers
In order to ensure every volunteer remains safe, you need to create mandatory health and safety training. This training should be based on all the health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 set out by your community's health authorities. Your organization may also require additional health and safety protocols above and beyond the minimum requirement. For example, you can make it mandatory for all volunteers to wear non-medical masks for their shift duration.
In addition to creating the basic training, you may also need to develop specialized training for various roles or tasks that only a small number of volunteers will be responsible for. Your organization will need to track and keep records of which volunteers have completed training to ensure that no volunteer is scheduled to work that hasn't completed the training. This tracking can be done in your volunteer management solution to ensure that a volunteer can not be scheduled for shifts without the proper training qualifications, reducing any administrative errors.
COVID-19 Volunteer Health and Safety Checklist
To ensure all volunteers are compliant with your health and safety protocols, you may want to implement a mandatory self-assessment checklist before every shift. This reminds each volunteer to assess their health and practice correct health and safety protocols before, during and after their shift.
We have created a free COVID-19 volunteer health and safety checklist to help your organization get started .
Develop a Preparedness and Response Plan
You need to be ready to act in case of any emergencies, but you also need to plan for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak. You will need to follow emergency response guidelines already set out by local authorities and first responders.
Some strategies and provisions for detecting and monitoring COVID-19 Infections
- Staggering volunteer shift check-in time and requiring a self-assessment checklist or temperature check to ensure every person working is screened.
- Establish shift location zones that limit a volunteer to a single zone, helping contact tracing if an outbreak occurs.
- Equip volunteers with a communication app that allows them to report any issues from their location to their team and managers. This will ensure any incidents that arise are managed in a safe manner while maintaining proper location control. It should allow for all communications to be logged in a centralized database for incident reporting.
Establish a Clear Line of Command and Control
Invest in creating a clear leadership team with direct access to all volunteer information through a centralized volunteer management system. This should provide a centralized point of command and control with access to the shifts, location, and check-in and out times of all volunteers, to provide further visibility on volunteer movement at all times.
Consider Adopting A Volunteer Management Solution
A spreadsheet and paper approach to volunteer management doesn't provide volunteer managers what they need to ensure the safety of their volunteer team and community is safe and traceable during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
A volunteer Management solution, like InitLive's, offers volunteer managers the ability to:
- Track Health & Safety Training
- Create COVID-19 Specific Volunteer Roles and Opportunities
- Create Shift Location Zones
- Monitor Volunteer Shift Check-in and Check-outs
- Equip Volunteers With A Two-Way Communications App
- Manage Your Schedule From Anywhere
- Broadcasts Protocol Reminder Communications
- Complete Volunteer Contact Tracing and Reporting
For more information on how your organization could benefit from InitLive's all-in-one volunteer management solutions, you can check our demo video by clicking here or reviewing our COVID-19 Volunteer management solution clicking here.