Health and safety

 

All churches, chapels and meeting houses should have a health and safety policy. It should take into account staff, volunteers and visitors.

Old buildings in particular can be minefields of potential health and safety hazards as they are buildings whose shape, size and floor levels may have been changed several times through the centuries.

Things to consider include:

  • men working on a church in 1973lighting: some old buildings are quite dark, light switches may not be easy to find, in exceptional cases the lighting scheme may not be up to required standards
  • aisles & pews: spaces between rows of benches can be inadequate for wheelchair users, or pews may even be on platforms
  • uneven floors: floor levels may be uneven due to graves and gravestones settling, in churches there are usually steps between porch and nave and chancel and sanctuary, carpeting can hide steps
  • towers: consider carefully whether to allow tower tours, there is specialist guidance available in our resource centre
  • churchyards & outside space: gravestones can fall, moss on paths can be slippy

Your church and churchyard should be checked regularly and risk assessments completed for all areas as well as for special events or activities (including any maintenance or repair work). This will identify risks and help you to take action to overcome them.

National Churches Trust: risk assessments

Professional advice

There is a wealth of advice about health and safety, and you will be able to find lots of guidance which suits your building or situation. Although it is largely about common prudence, health and safety is the law, so you should read and follow advice carefully.

The Health and Safety Executive’s ‘Health and safety made simple’ website covers the vast majority of things you will need to consider as a church. It covers topics such as appointing a health & safety officer, writing a  policy, managing risk, first aid, accidents and ill and legal responsibilities.

Most denominations and local authorities will have a section on health and safety for community groups as well as detailed guidance on how to undertake risk assessments for events and new projects.

Ecclesiastical Insurance: church health and safety

Health and Safety Executive: the basics for your business