New Year’s Resolutions: Don’t let volunteer efforts become a legal hazard

A common New Year’s resolution is to volunteer.  In fact, it as one of the top 10 healthiest resolutions one can make, as volunteering has been linked with increased levels of happiness and decreased depression.



Post by Charles Appleby

While we do not like thinking about legal or safety matters when it comes to things that make us feel good, remembering some key points can help ensure the experience remains a safe and positive one for both the volunteer and the organization.


Tips for organizations that use volunteers:



  • Have volunteers sign a “hold harmless agreement.” This ensures volunteers are aware of any potential dangers and agree not to hold your organizationresponsible for any injuries.
  • If you run or work for a non-profit or organization that utilizes volunteers with handicap or senior citizens, have volunteers sign the appropriate documents with the protocols listed to affirm they have read and understand all policies and procedures.
  • Make sure there is always adequate supervision. 

Tips for volunteers:



  • Ask exactly what you will be doing so you know about any potential hazards or dangers.  For example, find out the weight of materials if you are helping move items like canned goods or coats so you don’t hurt your back, be aware of the temperature of different surfaces if you are helping serve food so you don’t burn yourself, and learn the type of equipment that may be nearby if you are helping with a construction project.
  • Know AND understand all the procedures.  If volunteering with individuals who may have mental or physical limitations, it is very important you clearly understand the protocol of what to do and who to contact in certain situations. 

When done safely, volunteering is an incredible way to give back to the community.  With so many incredible organizations and causes for which you can volunteer, it is easy to pick ones that can ensure your time and efforts are going toward something truly near and dear to your heart.




About Christian Stegmaier
Senior Shareholder

Christian Stegmaier is a shareholder and chair of the Retail & Hospitality Practice Group at Collins & Lacy in Columbia. He is also active in the firm’s professional liability and appellate practices. Stegmaier welcomes your questions at (803) 255-0454 or