In the performance of their role as a leader, a volunteer may experience some difficulties or problems in attempting to carry out their role. This may cause the leader to become frustrated or upset, which if not addressed may lead to further difficulties or it may affect the smooth conduct of the program.

An incident is an undesirable event or an unusual incident that may have affected the safety of a participant or the group of participants whilst on a program.

There are many good reasons why smoking should not be permitted at a program. A policy will affect leaders as well as participants. It may be difficult for participants to accept a no smoking policy as they may think that their freedom and right to decision making is being restricted. Your organisation will have a policy in this area.

People who attend programs include participants and leaders of mature age. They may be sexually active and choose to be so when on a program. Some participants and leaders may come to program with a partner and wish to continue their normal sexual relationship.

There is great diversity amongst program participants; they come from different environments, where parents/ caregivers have varying expectations of behaviour. Parents/ caregivers will have expectations of the program and how leaders will fulfil these expectations. Participants can be confused about what is expected of them unless we put things in place so that everyone knows what the expectations are.

The most common way used by organisations for transporting participants to and from a program is by bus or through parents/caregivers taking the participant to the site. Most organisations have access to small buses on loan from schools or community groups that are driven by leaders with an appropriately endorsed licence.

A great part of any sport or active recreation experience involves the sharing of mealtimes. Sometimes we may be fortunate in having all the meals cooked by professionals, but this does take away the opportunity of all taking turns in sharing in the preparation of meals.

It is important to assume that all body fluids are potentially infectious for a range of micro-organisms including hepatitis A, B and C and HIV and that appropriate infection control procedures are adopted. If the spill is likely to come into contact with parts of the human body it is important to treat the spill with bleach followed by detergent.

Volunteers should know what first aid resources are available at the program. The coordinator will have arranged for a well-stocked first aid kit to be present. Know where it is and what is available. Each program will have someone trained in first aid procedures. Know who this person is and refer to them when necessary.

The provision of an appropriate ratio of leaders for participants would make it difficult for a participant to be left behind at a program. Unfortunately there have been a number of cases where this has occurred and it has not been realised until the participants are returned to their caregiver/parent. This situation creates a great amount of stress for everyone concerned, particularly the participant.

Listen to media announcements to be aware of expected weather conditions and proclamation of days of heavy rainfall.

All leaders should be aware of fire risk, particularly during the summer period and understand the procedures to be adopted in the case of a fire, at the facility, campsite or in the surrounding bush area. A fire may be avoided by following simple precautions.

Know the procedures for the following incidents should they occur. Prior to the program establish meeting and assembly areas in case of emergencies.

Wherever possible, go to a beach area where life-saving club members are on duty and let them know of the groups' presence. Only swim in designated areas, supervised by the life saving club.

Any activities that take place in or near water require thorough supervision. The ratio of leaders to participants will vary according to the situation, activity, participant skill and safety concerns.

Some useful sun smart tips:

  • Watch the clock - try to limit time in direct sun between 10am and 4pm.
  • Make a statement with shades, hat and a long sleeve t-shirt.
  • Block the sun year round - it is possible to burn all year, even in the snow so don't forget to block the sun, to have fun all year round.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30+ - apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun and after swimming, sweating or towelling off.
  • Remember your ears, nose, neck, tops of your feet and hands - they may seem small but they can really burn.
  • Waterproof your skin while swimming - use waterproof sunscreen.

To check the daily UV levels go to or

The physical and emotional health and safety of all participants should be the key consideration with everything that we do during sport and active recreation programs. It is important that we understand the health and safety needs of a participant and that we ensure that facilities and activities at the program do not jeopardise these. The best way to avoid this is to be prepared and know the participants.

No one is expected to foresee the unforeseeable, only to take reasonable precautions considering both the activity and the particular participants involved. What is safe for one participant may not be safe for another and their physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition should be taken into account.

Programmed experiences providing a range of sport and active recreation activities for people with disabilities are great for personal development and the development of skills, they may also involve an element of risk.

Organisations take out insurance to protect them from liabilities that may occur, including the actions and personal accidents of volunteers.

The volunteer who freely and willingly provides their service to an organisation without receiving compensation has a number of rights and the organisation has a number of responsibilities to the volunteer.

The first and most basic right is for the volunteer to be respected and to be treated as a professional colleague by the organisation, program directors, coordinators and fellow leaders at all times.

The volunteer has the right to confidentiality of information about themselves such as phone numbers and personal details.

The volunteer also has the right to be fully informed by the organisation and to attend a training program conducted by the organisation. Training is for the purposes of briefing the volunteer on the specific organisation details of a program, the role and responsibilities of the volunteer in the program and strategies for facilitation of an effective program.

The volunteer has the right to be insured for accidental injury and death and personal liability, while on the program. This insurance is to be taken out by the organisation. In the interests of personal awareness, the volunteer should know the conditions and benefits of this insurance and in some cases may be encouraged to also take personal liability insurance.

The volunteer has the right to be supported by the organisation at all times against all actions that may be taken against him or her. This may not be the case if the volunteer is found to be negligent in their duty of care.

The volunteer has the right of access to the coordinator, program director, or organisation manager should a major concern arise.

The volunteer has the right to time on their own (time-out), when negotiated with the program director and taken at a time mutually agreed upon if on an overnight program.

The participant has a right to privacy and leaders must respect the participant’s right to privacy.

Be familiar with the guidelines and regulations of the organisation with regard to sport and active recreation programs. Carry out responsibilities and tasks as recommended by the organisation, program manager or coordinator and understand the principles of individual rights and freedoms and recognise the importance of applying them when working with people with disabilities. Talk to others about areas in which you are uncertain.

It is very obvious to all concerned, organisations and the leaders who work with them, that it is imperative to avoid situations that may lead to the injury of a participant as a result of negligence in the duty of care. Initially a leader is inclined to be very cautious in their work with a participant with a disability, not being quite sure of what constitutes a breach of duty of care. As their confidence in working in this area develops, they will also become more aware of potentially risky situations and therefore develop strategies for assessing potential risks and working in such a way that their impact can be minimised.

A claim for compensation can be made if harm or loss to a participant has occurred, as result of the other person's negligence; this is usually known as a claim for damages. Harm or loss has traditionally included terms such bodily injury, economic loss or nervous shock, but more recently a broader concept of injury has emerged. For example, it may be considered possible to damage a person with a disability by unnecessarily restricting their freedom and autonomy. Though this is not recognised by courts as grounds for a negligence action, it is part of legal responsibility and is therefore relevant in determining if negligence has occurred.

Failure to meet a reasonable standard of care constitutes a breach of duty of care. Where harm or injury occurs as result of this failure, legal action for compensation can be made. In sport and active recreation activities for people with disabilities, the expected standard of care tends to be higher than in other situations.

In providing our duty of care we need to be aware of the standard of care, i.e. what a reasonable person would have done, or not done, in the same circumstance.

Duty of care basically means that you must be careful to protect others around you from any foreseeable danger – you have a legal obligation to avoid causing harm to this participant. There must be sufficient relationship of closeness between two people for duty of care to exist. For example, the leader to participant relationship.

Negligence is doing or failing to do something that a reasonable person would, or would not, do in a certain situation and which causes another person damage, injury or loss as a result

Services that provide for people with disabilities have a clear responsibility to work in ways that genuinely empower, enable and support participants to experience all the rights that belong to all citizens. Although we have the responsibility to support people with disabilities to take control over their own lives, we also have the responsibility to ensure that people are not unreasonably exposed to risks of physical injury or other harm. On the one hand we assist people to develop independence and autonomy, and on the other we must ensure that a person's disability does not leave them unreasonably vulnerable to abuse or danger.

There are two key areas in which a person with a disability may be at risk of harm:

  • The first relates to physical injury; and
  • The second relates to limiting maximum personal development, self-determination and decision makin.

For people with disabilities, harm in these areas may be difficult to assess, therefore it is important that we are well aware of how harm can occur. Leaders carry a higher burden of responsibility compared with working with people without disabilities.

The Disability Act 2006and the Disability Regulations 2007 (the Act) commenced on 1 July 2007. The Act replaced the Intellectually Disabled Persons' Services Act 1986 and Disability Services Act 1991. The following website will give information regarding the Act:

Additionally the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) in Australia and the Human Rights Act of Victoria are also important to understand. The following website will give you further information on both of these acts:

Both the principles of the Disability Act 2006 and the Disability Regulations 2007, require an approach which not only takes into account an organisation's responsibility to ensure physical well-being, but also to assist a person with a disability to maximise their personal development, self-determination, independence and quality of life. This has implications for what is considered reasonable practice in providing services and what could be considered as damage. When we consider the rights of people with disabilities to grow and develop we also need to consider the range of risks that they can be exposed to in achieving this.

This has implications for:

  • Leaders in encouraging participants to confront dangers and risks and to support them to do so safely; and
  • Imposing restrictions because of what we perceive will cause injury that restricts the individual’s independence and freedom.

As leaders we will come to realise that there is a fine line between being helpful and constructive and being overprotective and custodial. Though we encourage independence, challenge and some risk taking, we are aware that we have a legal responsibility to protect the participants entrusted to us from harm -physical, emotion, and psychological.

It is extremely important that we understand the legal responsibilities that we have to the participants entrusted to us and to ensure that these are observed. Initially, this may sound daunting and difficult to comprehend, but if we look at it in simple terms we can understand the basics and come to understand how we should respond, what precautions we should take and what pitfalls to avoid.

There are number of principles we need to be aware of in understanding the legal responsibilities we have to the participants entrusted to us in the sport or active recreation program situation.

These include:

  • Negligence;
  • Duty of care;
  • Standard of care;
  • Breach of duty of care; and
  • Harm and loss.

In a sport and active recreation environment, the relationship that the leader has with a participant is one of 'in locoparentis'. This is a legal term meaning 'inplace of parent or parents/caregivers’. The leader is expected to take on all the responsibilities of the parents/ caregivers and possibly even more. This is a general responsibility but a leader does not have all the responsibilities of a parent or guardian. It is a responsibility of care but not one that includes the power to make the same decisions that parents/caregivers can make.

This communication aid comes in many shapes and sizes. Most need to be custom made to match the physical, social and intellectual needs of the participant. This includes personalising the vocabulary and content and considering issues such as how the participant will carry it, how they will use it, and how they will maintain and update it.