Developing a congregational health and safety policy
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires all employers to prepare a health and safety policy. As we recommend a single-system approach to health and safety, all Charity Trustees should ensure that they have a written health and safety policy.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does not identify exactly what should be contained within a health and safety policy. However, the policy should refer to three main areas:
- The statement of intent – This should provide a statement of overall congregational commitment to good standards of health and safety and usually includes a reference to compliance with relevant legislation. Whilst the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 only requires the policy to relate to employees, reference should also be made to others who might be affected by relevant activities. For example: contractors, visitors and volunteers. Congregational commitment to health and safety can be demonstrated by having the Session Clerk and/or other members of the Charity Trustees sign the policy .
- Organisation – It is important that the roles and responsibilities of the Charity Trustees and the Congregational Health and Safety Administrator are clearly described within any health and safety policy. If any health and safety responsibilities are delegated to others, this information should also be included.
- Arrangements – Describe how the health and safety policy will be implemented within a congregation and how employees, volunteers, visitors, and anyone else who might be affected by any relevant activities will come to know about it.
An example of a health and safety policy is included in the toolkit and congregations can use or adapt this to reflect their own specific health and safety requirements.
The health and safety policy is an important document that demonstrates your commitment to health and safety to your employees and volunteers and details the arrangements made to ensure effective management of health and safety at your church buildings. A copy should be displayed in an area where people can see it. The Charity Trustees must also make sure that they bring the health and safety policy to the attention of all employees/volunteers and that they read and understand the policy.
The health and safety policy must be reviewed at least annually to ensure that the content is up to date and that the roles and responsibilities of the office bearers have not changed. The health and safety policy should also be reviewed when:
- New office bearers are appointed or there is a change to congregational governance arrangements
- New activities and tasks are undertaken within church properties
- New equipment is purchased
- A serious accident or near-miss incident takes place
- There is a significant change to the outcomes of any risk assessment
- Young people, disabled people, or people whose first language is not English are employed or volunteer
- There is a change in law.