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Documentation for Volunteers at U.Va.

Throughout the year there are many people who will serve as volunteers to help assist the University in its academic, research, healthcare and public service missions. Volunteers are permitted provided they have authorization by the University, which means there should be written documentation to support this authorization, signed by the appropriate department head (i.e. Chairs, Deans, Directors, Vice Presidents, etc.). It is important to make certain that you have documentation that indicates someone is a volunteer on behalf of your department. Likewise, you have a duty to educate volunteers about any foreseen hazards they may encounter during their work on behalf of your department.

Documentation giving permission is important for future reference in the event that something occurs, such as a claim or lawsuit brought against the volunteer and/or the University because of the volunteer's negligence in causing an injury to someone or causing damage to someone's property. For the Commonwealth to provide legal defense and insurance protection for our volunteers, there needs to be a clear documentation trail indicating their status as an agent working on behalf of the University.

Our goal should always be that of protecting volunteers from injury or illness while serving the University. It is important to realize that volunteers are not employees of the University, and they would normally not have the benefit of workers compensation if they were injured while working on behalf of the University. Also, keep in mind that a volunteer could bring a claim or lawsuit against the University and/or a faculty or staff member if the volunteer is injured and the injury is alleged to be caused from negligence by the University or its employees. (i.e. a volunteer sustains an injury in a lab, and afterwards sues the University alleging that he or she did not receive appropriate safety advice or instruction.)**

To assist you with this documentation process, we have prepared a generic format for your use (Form #1), which you can alter to more readily meet the needs of your department. However, any modifications of this form should be sent to Property & Liability Risk Management for review prior to being put into use. The documentation form is self-explanatory for the most part; however, please refer to the numbered items below, which correspond to the numbers on the volunteer documentation form, for additional information. (**Note: Form #1 should be used for documentation purposes. In situations where volunteers will only be assisting off grounds at a non-University facility or with activities that do not extend beyond one week in duration, documentation in those instances may be satisfied by completing Form #2, which simply tracks the department, volunteer name, activity, time period, and authorizing University official.)

  1. Volunteer's complete legal name.
  2. Volunteer's complete address. If the student's permanent home address is other than their local address, both their local and permanent home addresses should be listed. The same applies to phone numbers.
  3. It is required that volunteers carry personal health insurance to protect themselves against the costs of medical expenses from injuries and illnesses they may incur. When volunteers do not have personal health insurance, if something happens to them while performing volunteer services for the University there will be more of a tendency for them to expect the University to pay for their medical expenses, despite whether or not the University is at fault for their illness or injury. It is also important to have emergency contact information for a volunteer in case something happens to that person.
  4. This denotes the period of time that the volunteer is authorized to act on behalf of the University in a volunteer capacity. If this time frame changes for any reason, this form should be updated accordingly.
  5. A complete and accurate description of the volunteer's activities is important. There should be no confusion about what the volunteer will be authorized to do on behalf of the University. It is important to understand that the volunteer, while working in an authorized capacity for the University, is acting as an agent of this institution. This makes us responsible for their activities while they are serving as a volunteer. Furthermore, the volunteer's safety is important to us. Therefore, it is wise to document any restrictions or limitations that pertain to the volunteer's activities, alleviating any confusion later as to what the volunteer was authorized to do. This can be particularly important when the volunteer is working in a visible public service function (i.e. interacting with the general public) or in a high-risk area of the University (i.e. research labs).
  6. When allowing someone to serve as a volunteer, you may need to consider any special needs the individual could have due to disabilities, etc., that may need to be accommodated. This portion of the form is a place to document whether or not the volunteer has requested any accommodation needs. Questions related to this issue can be addressed to Brad Holland, ADA Coordinator--http://www.virginia.edu/eop/ombudsman.html.
  7. There is a strong desire on the part of executive administration to protect volunteers from getting injured or sick while serving in their volunteer capacity on behalf of the University. It is very important, therefore, that volunteers are instructed in the appropriate safety guidelines applicable to your department, particularly as it relates to the volunteer's activities. It should be documented in this section what safety guidelines are discussed with the volunteer. You should keep in mind that what seems common place to you, because you work in a particular setting everyday, is probably quite foreign to the volunteer. They may not be familiar with your building or other aspects of the department's operation.
  8. For instance, it may be appropriate to indicate we will be doing a criminal background check on the volunteer if the individual will have interaction with students, especially minors, or will have access to sensitive University data or University funds.

This document must be signed by the faculty or staff member who will be responsible for the volunteer's activities, and it must also be signed by the department head. Likewise, the volunteer must also sign the document once it has been read. In the event that the volunteer is under 18 yrs of age, there must also be a signature from the individual's parent or guardian. Documents should be kept on file in accordance with the University's record retention policy.

Please see the University's policy on Authorization of Volunteers in the Work Place for additional information.

Remember: Volunteers should not be placed in an unsafe situation while serving the University. If there is any concern that volunteers may be working in an unsafe environment or if you will be using volunteers under the age of 18, you should contact Property & Liability Risk Management to discuss the situation. If you have any questions, please contact Rick Schupp (rs5h or 434-924-3524) or Debbie Hinton (deh5m or 434-924-6928) in the Office of Property & Liability Risk Management.