Safety and Health Training Needed for Volunteers

Aug. 5, 2005
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that volunteer work can be dangerous, particularly for firefighters or for those whose volunteer work involves driving or riding in a motor vehicle.

The study, which analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from 1993 through 2002 and other government sources, found that during that period, 501 people died from injuries sustained while volunteering.

Most of those who died were firefighters or other volunteers who were operating motor vehicles at the time of death, the study found.

During the study period, three occupations accounted for approximately half of the 501 fatal injuries to volunteers:

  • Firefighters 185 deaths (37 percent);
  • Nonconstruction laborers 35 deaths (7 percent); and
  • Pilots/navigators 24 deaths (5 percent).

The remaining fatalities (all accounting for 4 percent or less than the total number) were distributed across 13 occupations.

The next highest fatality total was for religious workers, with 19 deaths, or 4 percent of the total number of fatalities.

The 25-34 age range accounted for the most volunteer deaths 103 during the study period.

The single most common volunteer activity at the time of death was firefighting, for which 76 deaths 15 percent of the total were recorded. Driving a motor vehicle (for example, an automobile, truck or farm vehicle) was recorded in 100 21 percent of the fatalities. Riding in a motor vehicle accounted for 37 of the deaths, or 7 percent of the total number of fatalities, the study found.

The overall rate of death among volunteers was 3.2 per 100,000 FTE (full-time equivalent) population.

To reduce the risk for fatalities, the study recommends that driver training should be provided to volunteer firefighters as described in National Fire Protection Association Standard 1451. Other organizations using volunteer drivers should consider adopting policies and providing education that emphasizes safe driving at work and in the community, the study recommends. The National Safety Council offers courses on defensive driving and other safe driving techniques.

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on the hazards of volunteer work and suggestions for making volunteer work safer. On Aug. 8, look for "Fatality Rates Lower for Volunteer Workers 35 and Over."

Sponsored Recommendations

ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

March 28, 2024
ISO 45001 certification – reduce your organizational risk and promote occupational health and safety (OHS) by working with SGS to achieve certification or migrate to the new standard...

Want to Verify your GHG Emissions Inventory?

March 28, 2024
With the increased focus on climate change, measuring your organization’s carbon footprint is an important first action step. Our Green House Gas (GHG) verification services provide...

Download Free ESG White Paper

March 28, 2024
The Rise and Challenges of ESG – Your Journey to Enhanced Sustainability, Brand and Investor Potential

Free Webinar: Mining & ESG: The Sustainability Mandate

March 28, 2024
Participants in this webinar will understand the business drivers and challenges of ESG and sustainability performance, the 5 steps of the ESG and sustainability cycle, and prioritized...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!