We have seen an increase in the number of older volunteers (65+) working with Habitat affiliates. This is great news for Habitat because these volunteers often have a wealth of knowledge and experience. However, it does bring certain risks other volunteers may not carry. It’s essential to consider the attributes of each volunteer (regardless of age) when assigning tasks. Older volunteers may not realize or accept the possibility that their physical ability is not what it once was. Potential physical limitations to consider when assigning tasks to an older volunteer can include:
- Visual impairment
- Hearing loss
- Reduced dexterity
- Reduced strength
- Reduced range of motion
- Difficulty with balance
- Difficulty walking
- Reduced reflexes
- Extended healing time
- Increased risk of medical complications and fatalities from injury
There are several things your affiliate can do to help ensure the safety of your older volunteers and reduce the risk of injury. These include:
- Require all volunteers go through orientation and training. See hfhaffilaiteinsurance.com  (passcode =Lockton) for a link to our Volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity Job Site safety course.
- Talk with volunteers about what tasks they are comfortable doing, how certain tasks might be modified to alleviate any concerns, and what the expectations are for any tasks being assigned.
- Don’t assign a task to any volunteer if there are concerns about his or her ability to safely perform the task, even if the volunteer disagrees with your decision. Think of it like this—would you rather have an upset volunteer or visit an injured volunteer in the hospital?
- Tasks involving heights (roofs, scaffoldings, truss, etc.) should particularly be avoided where older volunteers are concerned due to the increased risk of injury and potential physical limitations as outlined above.
- Consider using subcontractors for high-risk tasks, such as roof work.
- Schedule regular breaks for volunteers that are working more than two hours and encourage all volunteers to let managers/supervisors know if they need a break.
- Encourage all volunteers to ask questions.
As always if you have questions please contact us at 888-553-9002.