Volunteer Safety When Working Outdoors

As a volunteer, the charity or non-profit organization you are volunteering with is responsible for your safety. However, they may expect you to be familiar with common safety guidelines for working outdoors in Ontario. This page provides a brief overview of safety considerations when working outdoors.

Icon indicates this resource is in the "External Link" category.  Visit the Government of Ontario Page about Safety when Working Outdoors

The most common hazards a volunteer may encounter when working outdoors are:

  • ultraviolet radiation from the sun
  • heat stress
  • cold stress

Ultraviolet Radiation from the Sun

Ultraviolet raditation from the sun can cause skin cancer, premature aging, and other effects. Effects are strongest from 11 am to 4 pm. When working outside in the sun, follow these precautions:

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply often if sweating
  • Consider also using a lip balm with sun protection
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat
  • Cover as much of your skin with clothing as possible to shield against ultraviolet radiation

Heat Stress

Working in high heat can stress the body’s cooling system and lead to heat stress, heat stroke, and in extreme circumstances even death. As the Ottawa region experiences more and hotter heat waves, everyone working outside is encouraged to familiarize themselves with heat stress.

Icon indicates this resource is in the "External Link" category. Fact Sheet: Staying Healthy in the Heat (Government of Canada)

These simple tips will help you stay safe in high heat:

  • Always check the local weather so you are prepared for likely conditions
  • Know the signs of heat stress and pay attention to how you feel
  • Stay hydrated
  • Take breaks, especially by resting in a cooled building or shaded area

Be aware that high humidity is common in the Ottawa Valley and will make hot temperatures feel hotter.

Cold Stress

Winter temperatures in Ottawa and region can sometimes be very cold. If you are going to volunteer working outside in winter, follow these tips:

  • Always check the local weather so you are prepared for likely conditions
  • Wear several layers of clothing. Your clothing should be comfortable and not tight enough to restrict blood flow
  • In extreme cold, take extra precaution to protect your face, ears, hands, and feet
  • Ensure your boots are waterproof and slip-proof
  • Wear a hat to reduce heat lost through your head
  • Bring a change of clothing and/or a warm blanket for emergencies
  • Try not to touch cold metal surfaces with bare skin
  • Limit outdoor time on extremely cold days

Be aware that the wind can make cold temperatures feel colder. Learn more about working outdoors in cold weather on this page from the Canadian Centre for Health and Occupational Safety.

Visit our Volunteering Safely resource for general safety information.