Volunteering Safely

Not-for-profits should be taking the necessary steps to protect your safety. Young adults under the age of 25 are at a higher risk of injury while on the job than any other age group, and this includes as volunteers.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has age restrictions on the kinds of volunteer work youth can perform.

You can’t be a volunteer:

  • on a construction site or logging operation unless you’re 16
  • in a factory setting or restaurant kitchen unless you’re 15
  • in other industrial workplaces unless you’re 14.

Please refer to the teen volunteer section on the Ministry of Labour’s website for more information.

Organizations should be providing health and safety orientations to all their volunteers. You should have a clear understanding of your role, what the potential risks and hazards are and you should be given proper training to minimize the risk of harm. After this training, you can decide if you feel comfortable proceeding with the volunteer role.

There is a difference between trying out new experiences and skills, which may make you anxious or worried, and being pushed beyond your boundaries in unsafe ways.


  • If you feel unsafe, you do not have handle it on your own
  • You can leave if you feel you are at-risk
  • You can ask for help from a parent or trusted adult if you need help

Volunteering during COVID-19

If you are volunteering in-person during COVID-19, there is a certain degree of personal risk involved. You will need to consider the safety of you and your loved ones when it comes to selecting a volunteering role. Through VO’s volunteer search function, you can look for:

  • COVID-19 Virtual Volunteering – without contact, such as: virtual visits
  • COVID-19 Light Touch Volunteering – minimal contact, such as: grocery pickup and delivery
  • COVID-19 High Touch Volunteering – increased contact, such as: working at a food bank

However, there are precautions that you and your volunteer organization can take to minimize the risk of transmission:

  • If you live with individuals who are 60 and over, or have underlying health conditions, stick with light touch or virtual volunteering opportunities
  • Follow your public health safety guidelines, including exercising proper hand hygiene, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a mask
  • Check with your volunteer manager to ensure they have their own COVID-19 safety practices and protocols in place and that you understand them

For further information, check out our page on Safety Protocols and Volunteer Resources for COVID-19.