In everyday life people face a variety of
hazards to their safety. These include fire, flood, road
traffic, slippery surfaces, machinery and tools, working at heights
or in confined spaces, and – for nurses – manual handling of
Potentially dangerous hazards can also be
found in and around churches. These may include unmarked or
inadequately marked steps, sharp edges, fire hazards (including
out-of-date fire extinguishers), loose electrical power cords,
loose carpets or runners, and overcrowded seating (especially at
Christmas and Easter!).
I still have memories of some of the
Christmas Eve services in a congregation where my husband was
formerly the pastor. We had more than 200 children in the
Sunday school, and most of them – and their families – would turn
up for the Christmas Eve children’s service, even if they didn’t
worship during the rest of the year. They absolutely
crammed the church centre. Extra chairs were brought in and
almost filled the aisles – a very real potential hazard should
there have been an emergency of some sort!
At Mount Barker, where I began my Parish
Nursing, two ‘incidents’ led to the formation of a Safety
Committee. One was the discovery that the fire extinguishers
in the church had not been checked for over two years, and the
other was a child’s finger somehow getting jammed in one of the
The Safety Committee comprised two members of
the Parish Nurse Committee (one of whom was an OH&S nurse at a
local smallgoods factory) plus the chairman of the church’s
Property Committee and myself. The committee’s task was
to assess and deal with potential hazards. One of the first
things this committee did was to carry out a comprehensive safety
audit of the whole church plant and its surroundings. It also
prepared a form that members could use to report any hazards they
became aware of.
It is important that churches adopt
satisfactory methods of managing safety hazards. The
following guidelines, adapted from several sources, may be
Identify and list all the hazards that exist
in your church environment.
Assess the risk posed by each particular
Prioritise your list of hazards, placing the
ones most likely to cause a problem that may have major
consequences at the top and deal with those first.
Consider ways to control the hazards you have
Put in place control measures to minimise the
likely consequences of any hazard.
Review each hazard regularly to ensure the
control measures are working effectively.
Another aspect of my role in relation to
safety at church was the responsibility of ensuring that the
congregation’s Safety First kit and resources were adequate and
up-to-date. To ensure that all necessary items were available
in the kit, I developed a checklist based on several sources.
I am happy to make a copy available to anyone who would like
Paradise, South Australia