Principles of congregational health and safety
All Charity Trustees must fulfil certain obligations to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and volunteers. Many of these obligations also extend to protecting members of the public, visitors, contractors and anyone else who might be harmed when accessing the church buildings and property. For example, if any buildings are let to other organisations or groups, it is necessary to ensure that the condition of the buildings and any equipment provided are safe and suitable for use.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers and duty holders to:
- Ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all their employees, volunteers, visitors and general public
- Provide and maintain plans and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
- Ensure that employees, volunteers, contractors and the general public can use, handle, store, and transport articles and substances safely and without avoidable risk
- Provide information, instruction, training, supervision and identified safety provisions to protect the health and safety of employees and volunteers
- Provide employees, visitors and general public with safe access and egress to their premises and place of work without any risk to health or safety
- Provide and maintain a safe working environment which does not present a risk to health and have adequate facilities and arrangements in place for employees' and volunteers' welfare at work.
Charity Trustees must further ensure that the buildings remain safe and that all work and activities that are carried out at the church buildings do not pose a risk to the health and safety of employees/volunteers or anyone who may access the building or associated property. This is very important, as churches are places of worship and therefore openly accessible to members of the general public.
Employees, volunteers, contractors and the general public also have specific responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They must all take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be potentially affected by their actions or omissions. Employees, volunteers, contractors and the general public must also cooperate with the Health and Safety measures taken to ensure everyone remains safe.
Although the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the principal overarching legislation relevant to health and safety in the UK, congregations must also be aware of a number of other regulations to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and those who use their buildings. These regulations will be explored in more detail in later sections of this toolkit.