People on church premises

31 July 2019

Your Methodist church should be a safe place for people to visit and work. This guide gives you an overview of best practice health and safety considerations.

Sermon

What is a health and safety policy?

A health and safety policy outlines your churches commitment to maintaining a safe environment. It will give details of how health and safety risks are managed at your church.

Keeping an up-to-date health and safety policy helps you to fulfil your duty of care to volunteers, visitors and other users of your Methodist church. 

Creating a health and safety policy

Every church is unique and has different hazards to account for. Regular risk assessments help to identify and assess the risks affecting your church. Our template risk assessment form can help you get started but you also consider the following:

  • Make sure you have an accident book
  • Have regular discussions at your church meetings to identify issues
  • Make regular updates to your risk assessments and keep records of this
  • Monitor procedures to take account of changing circumstances.

Common health and safety concerns in Methodist churches

Your health and safety policy should take into account day-to-day risks as well as those associated with one-off activities and events. 

Slips, trips and falls

It is not just your congregation or visitors you need to consider; we often see claims involving employees and volunteers. Many accidents can be prevented by implementing the following: 

  • Fix down the edges of carpets, rugs and doormats or using an edge strip, if the problem persists, consider removing the carpet altogether. 
  • Sweep up leaves and remove snow and ice on all footpaths that can be used
  • Display warning signs where conditions are more risky, for example if there is an uneven surface.
We have produced a slips and trips checklist for you to take a look at.
Personal safety

You may find yourself in vulnerable situations, for example if you are alone in a church or locking up after an event or service. In these situations it’s important to prioritise your safety and take some reasonable precautions:  

  • Avoid situations where you are alone in the church.
  • Carry a personal attack alarm handy and make sure people know what to do if they hear it. 
  • Keep your mobile phone nearby and accessible.
For more detailed advice on how to stay safe while carrying out duties for the church, read our personal safety guide
Volunteers

A risk assessment should be carried out for all work that is likely to be carried out by volunteers. Any health and safety measures should be shared with volunteers whether they are working for your church for one day or one year. 

Working from height

Your church has a legal duty to protect employees and volunteers under their control. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) consider it good practice to provide volunteers with the same level of protection as if they were employees.

Falling from height e.g. falling off a ladder while trying to replace a light bulb, is a major cause of severe injuries and even fatalities. During the course of your role at the church, work from height should only be carried out if you have fully assessed the risk.
 
Introducing the following controls may help to limit the risk of accidents:
  • Proper planning and organising of the work taking place 
  • Ensure the person carrying out the work is competent or supervised by a competent person 
  • Provide suitable work equipment - ladders should be suitably placed and footed.
 
Our risk team have produced guidance on working at height for churches

FAQs

Churches and church halls are used for everything from concerts and keep fit classes to business meetings. These activities can help your church’s involvement in the local community and generate a useful source of income.

  • The public liability section of your policy covers hirers for occasional private social events on not more than three occasions, per hirer, per year. This applies only where no other insurance cover is in force.
  • There is no automatic cover under the church insurance policy for outside organisations meeting on a regular basis; however, most groups have their own public liability cover and you should seek written confirmation from them that they have appropriate cover.
Outside user groups who do not have public liability insurance can apply to Methodist Insurance for a quotation.

Volunteers need to ensure their own motor insurance covers them for this use, as any damage resulting from the use of a vehicle would fall to the insurer of the vehicle. We would always ask that the volunteer ensures their own motor insurance; most motor insurers automatically include this.

In the first instance, refer to the Methodist Church safeguarding policy or your District safeguarding contact. It is good practice to get written confirmation from groups working with children and/or vulnerable adults that they have a safeguarding policy and they undertake DBS checks.

Liability insurance protects an individual, volunteer or organisation if they are held legally liable for personal injury or damage to property.

Employers’ liability insurance specifically covers your legal responsibility for your employees and volunteers and is a legal requirement for all employers.

Public liability covers your legal responsibility for members of the public and other visitors to your church premises. 

Your church insurance policy includes both Employers’ and Public liability cover.