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Work Health & Safety

Under Work Health & Safety legislation, volunteers are deemed as workers and Council has an obligation to provide a safe working environment. Port Stephens Council offers volunteers an introduction to WHS through the Volunteer Induction Training program.  (See Training and Opportunities for further information).

Activities Not Permitted

As per Council’s ‘WHS Management of Volunteers Procedure’, the following types of activities are not permitted to be undertaken by Council Volunteers or other participants unless written permission is obtained from Council:

  • Confined space entry;
  • Excavation, penetration or trenching;
  • Use of chainsaws;
  • Use of plant and machinery eg chainsaws, ride on mowers, bob cat;
  • Work on electrical equipment;
  • Use of electrical tools other than battery operated hand tools;
  • Work at heights/ladders (unless library volunteers trained by PSC library staff);
  • Tree branch removal;
  • Unapproved clearing;
  • Burn offs; and
  • Chemical handling (unless volunteer has undertaken training in the use of the chemical and is approved for the specific task, such as herbicide use for weed control).

Site Induction (SWAT)

NSW Work Health and Safety legislation puts the onus on Council to provide and maintain a working environment that is as safe as practicable and without risks to health. Before commencing work, volunteers must be provided with safety information and procedures pertaining to that particular site. Port Stephens Council uses the Specific Worksite Assessment and Toolbox (SWAT) process to provide this information.

The SWAT Form is completed by a Council Responsible Officer (such as a Parks Program Officer) in conjunction with committee/volunteer representatives prior to a project or activity commencing. A SWAT Form is to be completed for each site, activity or project (however, a project may involve similar activities at a number of sites over a defined time period.)

All volunteers involved in work activities under the approval of Council must be inducted to the site prior to the initial commencement of work, whether they are a Registered Council Volunteer or person involved on a casual or short term basis only.

Evidence that a person has participated in this induction is recorded on page 4 of the SWAT Form.Additional information relevant to this SWAT Form is provided to 355c Committees separatelyand includes Council's Risk Matrix (PDF 25KB) and Emergency and Utilities Contacts List (PDF 32KB). Completed SWAT Forms (or copies of) should be forwarded to the Volunteers Coordinator to be recorded by Council.

  • Download a copy of Council's SWAT Form (PDF 301KB) for 355c Committee activities from our A-Z Forms page.

Daily Attendance Form

When a volunteer is carrying out any work on behalf of Council they must sign the Daily Attendance Form. Signing assists with insurance cover if a volunteer is injured whilst carrying out approved activities. It also helps committees to maintain a record of working bees and activities, participants, times and volunteer hours contributed. This form must be available on-site and signed by all volunteers at the beginning and end of the activity.

Two versions of the Daily Attendance Form are available for your preference – portrait and landscape.Completed Daily Attendance Forms (or copies of) should be forwarded to the Volunteers Coordinator on an annual basis to be recorded by Council.

  • Download a Daily Attendance Form (portrait version) (PDF 81KB), or Daily Attendance Form (landscape version) (PDF 77KB) from our A-Z Forms page.

Safe Work Method Statements

A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is a document that:

  • lists the types of high risk construction work being done;
  • states the health and safety hazards and risks arising from that work;
  • describes how the risks will be controlled; and
  • describes how the risk control measures will be put in place.

In accordance with the WHS Regulations 2011, a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must be prepared for all high risk work. PSC is committed to developing SWMS’s for a broader range of work activities than is required by the legislation. As such generic SWMS’s have been prepared for many of the activities undertaken by volunteers, such as mulching, tree planting, weeding, litter removal and food handling.

Council staff responsible for managing volunteers can provide committees and volunteers with generic SWMS templates which can be adapted to suit specific situations. Once updated by Council staff, they will be added to the website.


Safety Data Sheets

A Safety Data Sheet is a document that provides information on the properties of chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace, and should always be referred to when assessing risks in the workplace. A SDS includes information on:

  • the identity of the chemical;
  • health and physicochemical hazards;
  • safe handling and storage procedures;
  • emergency procedures; and
  • disposal considerations.

Safety Data Sheets are prepared by the manufacturers of a product and are available from the manufacturer or supplier. Committees should ensure they have SDS for all products used in carrying out their duties, and SDS cannot be more than five years old. Assistance in obtaining SDS can be sought from Council staff.

Insurance for Volunteers

Council's Public Liability Insurance extends to cover volunteers for loss, damage or injury caused to third parties as a result of their voluntary work for Council.  Council's Personal Accident Insurance provides cover for injury to volunteers of Council whilst engaged in voluntary work for Council, including travel to and from that planned voluntary work.

Volunteers must ensure that they sign on and off for all voluntary work undertaken on behalf of Council, and this is done using the 'Daily Attendance Form'. Volunteers are required to abide by any instruction, direction or training provided by Council staff and work within the scope of their operational guidelines.

If a volunteer wishes to make a claim on Council's Personal Accident Insurance, a claim form will need to be completed for submission to Council's insurer. This claim form can be obtained from the Volunteers Coordinator or Corporate Risk Management Team on 4988 0255.

Risk Incident/Hazard Reporting

Council Committees and Volunteers must use the 'Risk Incident/Hazard Report Book' to record all hazards, incidents, near misses and injuries and submit them to your Council Responsible Officer within 24 hours of the incident occurring. If after hours, the volunteer is to report this via the after-hours service by phoning Council’s switch 4988 0255.

Council’s Responsible Officers are to then ensure that the incident is managed in line with Port Stephens Council Incident/Hazard Reporting and Investigation Procedure.

Chemicals stored at Halls

To comply with WorkCover requirements, chemicals and cleaning products kept at Council facilities and use by Council Committees and Volunteers need to be recorded and entered into Council’s Chemwatch database. All chemicals and cleaning products need to be stored appropriately, and current Safety Data Sheets easily accessible.

Council staff are currently assisting Hall Committees through this process, and providing halls with a yellow folder containing Safety Data Sheets for all of their chemicals and cleaning products.

Volunteers Coordinator
Phone: (02) 4988 0255
Email: volunteers@portstephens.nsw.gov.au