All churches need to be safe, for the protection of worshipers, visitors and any employees. Although churches do not generally present significant safety hazards, hazards must be identified, risks assessed, and action taken where necessary.
Parochial Church Councils must insure against the usual risks. Our sponsors, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, have a range of resources available to PCCs, including guidance on a range of matters from fire and safety to the benefits of keeping churches open, which can be accessed here.
The Health and Safety Executive issues guidance on assessing risks. Where a church has employees and under certain other circumstances, various legal duties arise, details of which can be found in the HSE's publications.
Recently, a person was tragically found dead from hypothermia on church premises after having been accidentally locked in. Those locking church premises – church buildings and halls – must make sure that proper checks are made of all areas to which the public have access, including WC cubicles. WC doors should be able to be opened from the outside in the case of an emergency. Where facilities are being provided or renewed, it may be desirable for a gap above or below the door or a vision panel to be provided to enable checks to be easily made.
Where a church is undertaking significant building works, duties arise under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Your architect or surveyor will be able to guide you on making the necessary appointments. Advice can be obtained here.
The safety of gravestones in burial grounds has been a controversial issue in recent years, because of safety concerns following accidents. The Ministry of Justice has produced guidance that will help churches in assessing and managing the safety risk. You can download it here.
Since the introduction of "The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)" there has been a legal requirement that all lifting equipment (including font covers) and attachments are of adequate strength and stability for the load being raised or lowered. The lifting equipment must be inspected at regular intervals or as part of a risk-based inspection scheme by a competent person. Your insurers will be able to supply this inspection service. If Churches do not comply with this law they may, in the event of an accident, be in breach of Health & Safety legislation which can result in an unlimited fine. The Health and Safety Executive produces useful guidance on the relevant regulations, including the circumstances under which there is a need for regular inspections.
A church’s inspecting architect/surveyor will be able to give guidance on particular situations.
Your church's insurer will be willing to give advice, both on specific issues and with general advice. Our sponsors, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group can provide advice on local Insurance Consultants and Surveyors (including a lookup tool to enable customers to find contact details for their local surveyor). You can access this guidance by clicking here.