Church health and safety
26 March 2019
Keeping all those involved with your church and its activities safe is very important. Nobody wants to see anyone suffer an injury, so it is important that your church has taken steps to protect users of your building.
You may also have to comply with relevant legal requirements, including the Safety Health & Welfare At Work Act 2005 and the General Application Regulations. This applies to any organisation that has at least one employee, including a church.
A Safety Statement policy is usually a document setting out your general approach to and commitment for managing health and safety in your church.
Who needs one?
Where you are an employer and have three or more employees, or you make use of volunteers, you will need one. Here, it must meet certain requirements. For example, it will certainly need to be in writing detailing the organisation and arrangements for managing health and safety. Any risk assessments you complete will help inform what needs to be included. The Safety Statement will need to be revised periodically and communicated to all employees and volunteers.
What needs to be included in the Safety Statement
Broadly speaking, church Safety Statements should contain:
- A general statement, dated and signed, usually by a member of the Select Vestry
- Details of the responsibilities for managing health and safety and those who hold them
- Details of any specific arrangements setting out what will be done practically.
If you prepare a policy, you should formally minute its adoption at a Select Vestry meeting. You may also want to consider how ‘health and safety’ is reviewed at these meetings over time.
Any Safety Statement you prepare needs to reflect your own specific circumstances. The length, content and complexity of the document will depend on a range of factors.
For smaller churches, this could be quite a simple document setting out the roles and responsibilities for managing health and safety, as well as highlighting the arrangements you have put in place to prevent danger from common hazards.
For larger or very active churches with significant numbers of employees, volunteers and visitors or where there are many diverse activities – the document will need to be more detailed to reflect this.
Of course, simply preparing a Safety Statement won’t prevent accidents on its own, but it will help as a starting point making clear what you intend to do to prevent them.