- Who is a volunteer?
- Volunteer Selection
- Volunteer Training
- Volunteers & Liability
- Responding to an Accident
- Health, Accident, and Life Insurance
Who is a Volunteer?
The University of Maine defines a volunteer as any person who provides services to the University of Maine, and its programs, without financial gain.
To be accepted and serve as a certified volunteer with the Maine 4-H Youth Development program volunteers must:
- Complete a volunteer application. Applications are available by contacting a local county extension office.
- Successfully complete a State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) background check conducted by University of Maine Human Resources. This form is available by contacting a local county extension office. See Section B.1.4, Volunteer Background Checks.
- Interview and be approved by county 4-H staff and/or a county volunteer screening committee.
- Submit the names of at least two references.
- Sign the “Maine 4-H Youth Development Program Adult Standards of Behavior” form.
- Complete the required 4-H volunteer training for their specific volunteer responsibilities.
- Enroll each year as a 4-H volunteer.
The Maine 4-H Youth Development Volunteer Application, in addition to completion of the form, consists of the following:
- reference checks that may extend beyond the persons listed on the application. On the application, the applicant’s permission is requested to extend the reference check to other persons suggested to us in the course of contacting the given references. Occasionally, the office also may receive unsolicited information about an applicant. All information received is evaluated in the selection process on the basis of the 4-H Standards of Behavior;
- an interview with 4-H staff.
Other adults who support the 4-H program do not complete an application form. The interaction of these individuals should be under the direction of enrolled, certified volunteers. The enrolled 4-H volunteer is offered protection by the University of Maine’s liability insurance policy (see Section A.1.5). The Good Samaritan Law and the Volunteer Protection Act may provide protection for other volunteers.
Volunteer applications may be declined based on information received in the application process. Prior to making the decision to decline an application, the 4-H staff member should consult with the 4-H Program Administrator.
Extension staff will provide certified volunteers with supervision and training that any reasonable person would expect them to provide. Staff will make volunteers aware of any potential unnecessary risks or safety hazards to themselves or others as part of their training or orientation. Volunteers need to contact their county 4-H staff with any questions or concerns.
- Maine 4-H Volunteer Training is mandatory for all certified 4-H volunteers. 4-H volunteers will complete training, based on their specific role(s).
In addition to volunteer training, certified volunteers will be given the following information:
- Information through newsletters, fliers and other resources.
- Individual county program information.
- A copy of Maine 4-H Youth Development Program Adult Standards of Behavior.
- Risk management (liability) information.
Volunteers and Liability
In this day and age, we are all concerned about our potential liability exposure. What will happen if during a 4-H activity there is an accident and someone is injured–someone’s property is damaged? What happens if I am sued because of an accident while I am a 4-H volunteer? What if I caused the accident?
Generally, the University will provide liability protection and pay the legal expenses of a person who is sued for alleged negligence while acting as an approved agent or volunteer of the University. However, the University will not pay such expenses if the person did not act in good faith and with the reasonable belief that his or her action was in the best interest of the University, or if the person had reasonable cause to believe that his or her action was illegal.
The University will ask:
- Was the person an agent of the University at the time of the incident? Only someone who has completed the entire 4-H volunteer selection process necessary to be considered a 4-H volunteer in good standing can be considered an agent of the University. If a person does not re-enroll as a 4-H volunteer every year, the person would not be considered a volunteer in good standing.
- Was the person acting in the course and scope of his or her duties to the University at a 4-H activity or event? If the person was acting on behalf of another entity or organization or was on the person’s own time, then the person was not acting for the University. A 4-H volunteer should be careful about identifying himself or herself as a 4-H volunteer unless working as a volunteer in actual 4-H sponsored activities. Consult your county 4-H staff if you have any questions.
- Was the person acting in good faith and in the best interests of the University or did s/he know that s/he should not be engaging in a certain activity? If a person engages in conduct that the person knows or should know to be wrong or illegal, it is unlikely that the University would pay to defend that person.
Reduce your Liability and Risk of Accident!
4-H volunteers should, at a minimum, do the following to help ensure that University liability protection applies to them:
- Be VOLT certified and enrolled with their Extension office.
- Teach, model, and emphasize safety in all 4-H activities.
- Make sure that activities are approved by appropriate Extension staff.
- Make sure their Extension staff knows when and where the approved activities take place.
- If driving on official business, file proof of auto insurance and provide information from their drivers’ license (license number and expiration date) for verification to the county Extension office.
- Make sure everyone in any vehicle wears a seatbelt.
Responding to an Accident
Procedures to reduce liability if an accident occurs:
- Remain calm and use common sense.
- Take immediate action to prevent further damage or injury. If someone is seriously injured, call 911 or signal for emergency assistance. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. If someone is injured, but not seriously, seek assistance as needed.
- Vehicles in accidents that are obstructing traffic and can be moved should be moved to eliminate obstruction.
- If it is a vehicle accident, report the accident immediately to police so they can investigate.
- Record all important information immediately, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers of those involved in the accident and any witnesses; date and time of the accident; place and weather conditions; license plate and driver license information. Take pictures if a camera is available. Do not leave the scene of the accident until you have all the information needed.
- Contact your county 4-H staff or county office to fill out an accident report. To obtain a copy of the accident report, click on the following link: Accident Reporting
- Be courteous and factual. Do not argue, accept or assign blame. Share with the other party only necessary facts. Do not sign anything or discuss details of the accident with anyone other than 4-H staff, police, or University investigators.
Health, Accident, and Life Insurance
Health, accident, and life insurance are not the same as liability insurance or protections. The University does not provide any of these forms of insurance for someone hurt or injured in connection with its activities, unless caused by the trained enrolled volunteer’s/University’s negligence. The Maine 4-H Program does work with county 4-H programs to purchase accident insurance from American Income Life for all enrolled Maine 4-H members and 4-H adult volunteers. Each county collects its funding differently for this policy so we encourage you to contact your local County Cooperative Extension Office for more information. If counties and 4-H clubs purchase this insurance, the insurance has a $2,500 limit, no deductible, and applies to all 4-H members and leaders participating in a university-approved 4-H activity. Additional special-event accident insurance may be purchased from American Income Life that covers anyone who is participating in the event (i.e., it covers those not affiliated with 4-H or not covered by the insurance). Only enrolled participants are covered under this insurance (not spectators).
See your county 4-H staff for more details if you are planning an event.