Practical risk assessments
Legal regulations regarding the basic commonly identified risk assessments that should be produced and reviewed within church buildings are detailed below.
Note: Congregations that have introduced or allow other activities and equipment into the church buildings may have to further consider additional regulations and risk assessments pertaining to the hazards presented by them, e.g machinery, tools and woodworking facilities, hoisting or lifting equipment etc. Please seek further advice and guidance from presbytery and the General Trustees for any activities or equipment introduced to the church which may be considered to be outwith the normal and expected low-risk activities taking place in a church buildings.
The first step in an asbestos risk assessment is to identify if you have any asbestos or suspected Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) in the building(s). This should include the manse property. If you do have asbestos, you should produce an asbestos register if this has not been provided by a professional asbestos contractor. This register should detail the location, type and amount of ACM at each location and should be shared with any contractors or staff likely to come into contact with the ACM. Please see the asbestos section for guidance and advice.
Control of substances hazardous to health
The church remains a low-risk environment with not much more than relatively safe cleaning and sanitation chemicals to consider, but in some cases where woodworking, arts, crafts and other activities have introduced glues, gases, solvents, wood dust etc, the Charity Trustees must make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all work activities which might expose someone to any substance hazardous to health. This includes the use of some paints and coatings, cleaning materials and chemicals, glues, gases, fuels, dust and some pesticides etc. It also includes biohazards such as moulds, bird or dog waste, human waste, vermin and viruses such as COVID-19.
Presbytery and the General Trustees health and safety advisors will provide guidance and advice on any substances or biohazards that you may consider to be harmful or volatile. (See templates section below for COSHH assessment template if you must consider COSHH at your church buildings.)
Display screen equipment
Employers must undertake a suitable and sufficient analysis of all workstations used by display screen equipment (DSE) users (employees/volunteers). This includes persons carrying out DSE activities as permanent homeworkers.
All relevant operational premises are required to carry out a fire safety risk assessment. The fire safety risk assessment must identify the people at risk, the fire hazards within the building(s), an evaluation of the existing fire safety measures and high-risk areas within the buildings. It must also include a fire evacuation plan.
The content of the fire safety risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk, the complexity of the building and the number and type of persons occupying the building. Any remedial actions required, where identified by the assessment process, should be acted upon in a timely manner with respect to the cost and risk to life. More information is available in our fire safety section.
The regulations require that employers and property duty holders ensure that any gas appliances and pipework installed in properties for which they are responsible are maintained in a safe condition. Gas appliances (including ovens, hobs, fires and boilers) must be inspected at least every twelve months by an approved Gas Safe registered engineer who can certify the safety of the gas services and installed appliances.
A gas safety risk assessment may identify issues such as lapsed safety certification, insufficient carbon monoxide detection, faulty controls on appliances and lack of ventilation and stored consumable materials located in boiler rooms and cupboards.
Any identified or reported gas safety hazards should result in isolation of the gas and the appliance until a gas-safe engineer has deemed it safe for use.
Records must be kept for each appliance to include dates of inspection, any identified defects and action taken. These records should be kept in the congregation's property register.
Manual handling operations
You must undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of all manual handling operations. This should consider the tasks, loads, working environment, individual capability and any other factors that might affect manual handling operations and the safe movement of equipment, furniture and any stored items. It should also consider any activities that require repetitive movements by employees or volunteers, e.g. unloading deliveries, filling bags or boxes for a foodbank or other similar church-based activities. (See Manual Handling Assessment Template.)
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
PPE should only be used as a last resort when all other risk-control alternatives are unsuitable, including elimination, engineering controls or safe systems of work. It can be included in the risk assessment as an additional control measure but not singularly as the only protection for employees or volunteers carrying out any identified hazardous activities or tasks. Any PPE supplied to employees or volunteers must be suitable and sufficient for the identified tasks and conform to the BS or EN standards.
Wiring and electricity
A risk assessment for electrical safety within your buildings is a visual non-contact assessment based on identifying broken sockets, switches bared, exposed wiring and any reports of failed or malfunctioning electrical equipment or installations. This assessment may also help identify dated, unsafe wiring on equipment such as portable heaters and other historically used appliances, e.g organ, lighting, lamps etc.
A legal duty exists to ensure that only an appropriately trained and competent electrician inspects and tests fixed electrical systems. It is strongly advised to instruct an independent electrical engineer who can demonstrate certified competency and suitable insurance provision for any inspection and electrical work being carried out in church buildings. It is recommended that the contractors belong to the NIC/EIC or SELECT trade membership bodies that seek to ensure the professional competency and compliance of their members.
Working at height
A risk assessment should identify all working-at-height activities undertaken at the church building(s). This includes working on a ladder or platform to change lightbulbs, carry out inspections or perform any external maintenance activities such as gutter cleaning. The risk assessment should consider the competency and ability of the person carrying out the task, the stability and condition of the ladder or working platforms and any controls including suitable PPE and a prescribed safe system of work for carrying out the activity. Any hazards and risks to the general public and other building users that may be affected by someone working at height should also be suitably considered.
If you are employing external contractors to carry out these types of activities, they should provide their own risk assessments which should be reviewed to ensure that they have considered all the hazards and risks for carrying out the work at your buildings. They should produce any certification for the use of elevated platforms and a written safe system of work for how the task will be carried out. Any hazards and risks that have not been suitably controlled should be discussed and suitably mitigated against before they commence the work (see working at height section).