Construction: Using Volunteer Workers

Who pays when a volunteer is hurt?

Many churches rely heavily on volunteer labor for remodeling or construction projects. But such hazardous work as building repair or remodeling, new construction, and roof replacement can pose dangers for your volunteers and your ministry.

Before volunteer work begins, take steps to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Make sure the project is conducive to volunteer labor. Large or complex construction or demolition jobs are best left to professionals.
  • Keep in mind that working on roofs, ladders, or scaffolding is inherently dangerous. Be sure to instruct volunteers on safe work procedures and the safe use of all equipment.
  • Designate a project leader who understands the importance of safety and who will be alert to unsafe behavior that could result in injury.
  • Enlist only volunteers who are skilled and physically capable of undertaking the work assignment required of them.  

Volunteers May Not Qualify for Workers' Compensation

Although the law varies from state to state, in most states, volunteers will not be covered under workers' compensation statutes. So if a volunteer were injured while working for your church, medical coverage may be available only under your church's general liability “premises medical payments” policy. Check with your insurance agent to determine the extent of your coverage and the circumstances under which it may cover volunteer injuries.

If your church undertakes a large project, consult your attorney to make sure all potential liability exposures have been addressed. You may wish to consider having volunteers and independent contractors sign a “hold harmless” agreement to protect the church against liability claims resulting from project.

Additional Resources