A written Health and Safety policy is a document that outlines the safety measures and responsibilities in your Church or Place of Worship. It is a legal requirement to have a written policy in many situations, and is recommended in any case as it is good practice.
There is no set format for a Health and Safety Policy, but it should aim to provide a written commitment about how Health and Safety is being managed for the long term.
Please see our example of a Health and Safety Policy.
The first section of the policy would cover a general statement of policy. This is usually short (one side of A4 paper is normal) and should cover, in the broadest terms, how health and safety is being managed. This includes general responsibilities for safety (including that of members of staff and volunteers), arrangements for Risk Assessment and details of how the policy will be implemented.
The Health and Safety Policy Statement must be on permanent display. There is also a requirement to display a "Health and Safety Law" poster (which is available from all good bookshops) or alternatively pocket-cards can be given to every member of staff and volunteer.
Please see our example Health and Safety Policy Statement.
Organisation and responsibility
In this section of the policy, people are identified that have specific responsibilities for people's safety. The overall responsibility for Health and Safety usually lies with the minister or religious leader or the Chairman of a Trust (for a registered Charity).
Additionally, those people with responsibilities over others (such as a Choir Master) and likely to have responsibility for their safety, and this needs to be identified in the policy.
In some situations, a member of the congregation, an external consultant or some other person provides a level of assistance for Health and Safety. These people should be identified along with their roles and responsibilities.
It is recommended that a safety committee is formed for most Churches and Places of Worship. For many smaller situations, the role of the safety committee could be included in another committee (such as a PCC). There need to be details in the policy about when the committee will meet, who is involved and the role and function of the committee.
It must be stressed in this section that every member of staff and every volunteer is directly responsible for their own safety and the safety of those that could be affected by their actions and their omissions.
This section of the policy should also consider how hazards will be identified and who is responsible for carrying out Risk Assessment.
Procedures and arrangements for safety
This section covers in detail the arrangements for people's Health and Safety that have been identified in the Risk Assessment, along with the statutory requirements of Health and Safety Law. As such, this section is very much unique to each and every Church or Place of Worship and needs to be updated and modified as needed.
It might be beneficial in this section to identify the hazards that members of staff and volunteers might be exposed to, along with the precautions that have been put into place. This follows on directly from the Risk Assessment.
Training needs and plans should be identified within this section of the policy. This might include, for example, an initial safety briefing given to new volunteers and a plan for regular refresher courses. Additional information, instruction and training might need to be given to certain people or groups of people.
It is essential that foreseeable emergencies are identified and plans are made. For a Church or Place of Worship, it would be typical to have a plan for fire evacuation but it might also be necessary to have plans for power failures and situations such as a gas leak. It is also a requirement of the Fire Regulations to have suitable plans for fire evacuations.
The Health and Safety Policy should include details of how the policies and procedures will be checked. Inspections of the premises are a good way to ensure that all equipment is in place and there are no additional hazards within the area.
Setting aims and objectives is a good way to decide how things could be measured. An example of this is to aim to have no significant injury accidents or dangerous occurrences, and to reduce all incidents by a given percentage in a 12 month period.
A Health and Safety Policy and Procedures 'starter document' is available to ChurchSafety Members to download, modify and use in their own Church or Place of Worship.
The Health and Safety Executive publication, 'Successful health and safety management' (HSG65) provides information on implementing effective policies and 'management systems'. ISBN 0 7176 1276 7