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Welfare and the work environment

In Health and Safety terms, Welfare covers the immediate working environment of members of staff and volunteers.  This topic covers such aspects as heating, lighting and ventilation, which are also beneficial to the comfort of the congregation.

Heating and Ventilation

It is generally accepted that, in most situations, the minimum temperature of indoor workplaces should be 16 Degrees Celsius.  Where the work is strenuous the acceptable temperature is usually lower (at 13 Degrees Celsius).  However, a higher temperature of 21 Degrees Celsius is usually recommended for places of public assembly and might be considered as an appropriate standard for the majority of Churches and Places of Worship.

A thermometer should be available to allow staff and volunteers to measure the temperature of their work environment.

In the UK, most premises require some form of heating system.  Many Churches and Places of Worship are heated by means of a hot-water based central heating system often powered by gas, oil or solid fuel.  Whatever heating system is being used, it must not release gasses and exhausts into the air (such as toxic carbon monoxide gas), and adequate ventilation is needed to ensure that fresh air is available to the boiler. 

Portable gas heaters should be avoided because they do not have a flu to exhaust gases to the outside, and often result in the build-up of poor quality air in the room where the heater is used.  There are also fire safety considerations to using portable gas heaters, related to the use of gas bottles as well as the heat given off from the heater when it is being used.

Stale air can build up with normal use of any building, and this should be replaced by fresh air.  Ventilators and open windows can allow fresh air in, but the window or vent should not be near a flue or extractor fan because this could allow stale air back in.  Care is needed to prevent uncomfortable draughts when ventilating rooms.  Where larger volumes of stale air need to be removed, such as in kitchens and toilets, extractor fans are recommended.

Some premises might have air conditioning systems installed.  As with heating systems, these require routine maintenance by a contractor.  It is also recommended that ventilators and extractor fans are regularly visually inspected and cleaned to ensure that these items are free of obstruction on both sides.

Where personnel are expected to work outside or in very low temperatures, suitable clothing should be provided.  This clothing can be waterproof for work out of doors in poor weather conditions or thermally insulated for working in a cold environment.  Likewise, consideration should be given to providing adequate refreshment and shelter from the sun in hot weather.


Adequate lighting is important to prevent eyestrain and to ensure people can use the building safely.  It is usually preferred to make the best use of natural light, with electrical lighting being used when this is not possible.  Windows need to be kept clean noting that specialist methods might be required in the preservation of some historic glass.

Lighting external footpaths and car parks is important as it can prevent people slipping and tripping and can improve the security of the building.  For similar reasons, all circulation areas within the premises need to be illuminated (by natural or artificial light) when the building is in use.  While the main body of the building might be somewhat less well lit compared to other parts of the building, additional lighting might be preferential on reading desks, organs and so on.

In situations where the main lighting is extinguished, for example during a candle-lit carol service, there should be a minimum level of lighting covering exit routes, aisles and similar areas.  Usually, this would be achieved by using maintained emergency exit lighting, but mains or battery-powered lighting is also acceptable for occasional use in smaller buildings.

Exit routes should be adequately illuminated when the building is in use, and this might need to include emergency lighting where there is no natural light source or where the building is being used at night time.  Additional emergency lighting is required where there could be a risk of injury in an emergency, which is likely to include kitchens, bell ringing chambers and areas where the public congregate.

Sanitary accommodation

It is common in the smallest of Churches and Places of Worship to have one unisex toilet facility, or even no toilet at all, but it is usually recommended to have separate accommodation for men and women.  Additional facilities should be included for disabled people and there could also be baby-changing facilities available.  Toilet facilities should usually be marked with appropriate signs.

The exact numbers of toilets depend on the number of people that use the premises and the activities within the building.  In situations where there are up to five members of staff and volunteers, one water closet is usually required.  This figure increases to two toilets for up to 25 people and increases further depending on the number of staff and volunteers.  Additional facilities are likely to be required for use by the congregation and the public.

Each water closet must include a flushing toilet, a supply of toilet paper and a coat hook.  Facilities for use by female staff, volunteers and visitors should have suitable facilities for the disposal of sanitary dressings.  A means of drying hands is required, and paper towels or hot-air dryers are usually recommended.  Cloth hand-towels should be regularly exchanged and cleaned.


All areas of the Church or Place of Worship require cleaning.  It is usual to clean floors and some pieces of furniture on a weekly basis.  Toilets that are used regularly by members of the public and food preparation kitchens are likely to need more frequent, even daily, cleaning.  In some areas, such as boiler rooms and towers, this might frequency of cleaning not be practical and would be not be necessary.  In other situations, regular cleaning might damage historic artefacts so a less frequent schedule might be preferred.

Any spillage must be cleaned up immediately and a suitable warning sign (such as the free-standing 'wet floor sign' commonly used in supermarkets) should be on display while the floor is wet or cleaning is in progress.  The signs should be put away when it is no longer needed.

Arrangements must be made to ensure that rubbish, especially food waste, does not build up and is removed on a regular basis.

Walls, work surfaces, ceilings and other parts of the building should be occasionally cleaned to remove dust, cobwebs and debris.

Other facilities for personnel

Where staff and volunteers are employed, it is also common to provide facilities such as lockers, coat hooks, a rest area or rest room and the facilities for making a hot drink along with a supply of drinkable  water.  For many Churches and Places of Worship, this is likely be provided within the building already (for example the vestry or office could be used for eating and refreshments made in a kitchen).

Work areas should usually be 11 cubic metres in volume per person (this assumes a maximum height of 3 metres) but more space might be required for certain jobs.  It is preferred for members of staff and volunteers to sit down if possible, and seats with a good back support should be provided.  Adjustable seating is necessary for computer use, and foot rests should be made available for those who have difficulty in reaching the floor when seated.

Additional Information

More specific guidance on welfare facilities is available in an Approved Code of Practice (L24), published by the Health and Safety Executive  ISBN 0 7176 0413 6.  Local Authorities might be able to provide further guidance about the provision of facilities for members of the public.

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