Our Risk Maintainence Calendar to help you plan ahead
by David Parkinson
As a specialist insurer that has been working with churches for over 130 years, Ecclesiastical has developed a deep understanding of the risk and maintenance issues faced by PCCs.
“Maintenance and risk management can seem a daunting and endless task.” advises David Parkinson, risk management technical services manager at Ecclesiastical. “We’ve worked with many churches over the years and developed a whole suite of guidance and support to help PCCs manage maintenance and risk.”
With this in mind Ecclesiastical has provided Maintenance & Equipment News for Churches and Schools with a risk and maintenance calendar which provides useful hints and tips for some of the most common issues and risks.
With Christmas and New Year out of the way, you may find your church less frequently visited. But as temperatures remain cold you should make sure your church remains protected from the elements and is checked regularly.
- Check your water pipes are in good condition: Make sure they are well lagged and that the heating system is working properly. Service boilers and heating systems regularly using a competent person and check that the frost thermostat is working correctly. Use a Gas Safe registered engineer for gas appliances or an OFTEC registered engineer for oil appliances.
- ?Make sure you and other PCC members know where the stopcock is: If you do find a leak, turn off the water and anything electrical that you think might have been affected. Get these items checked out by a professional before you use them again.
- Ensure your church is safe for visitors. You have a responsibility for the safety of visitors to your church. At least one path should be cleared of any snow or ice and be properly lit wherever it is reasonable for you to do so.
Making sure those who use the church are kept safe is very important. Take time to review your responsibilities. You may have to comply with relevant legal requirements such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
- Make sure your precautions are adequate: If you are an employer you must complete risk assessments. These will help you identify risks and consider how best to manage them. Further guidance and templates are available on our website. Ecclesiastical customers can also call our dedicated risk management help line for advice.
Numerous church fires can be attributed to faulty wiring or apparatus and damaged appliances can cause shocks or burns. Thanks to increasingly high standards of wiring and installation, electrical systems are generally safer than ever, but undertaking regular checks is sensible.
- Fixed electrical systems: Should be inspected and tested at least once every five years. Any work completed must meet IET regulations and be undertaken by a qualified electrician with full scope registration or membership with NICEIC, ECA or NAPIT to work on commercial installations.
- Portable appliances: These will need checks before they are used and periodic inspection and testing for safety by a competent person in many cases. The Health and Safety Executive has published some helpful guidelines to support this activity. Any defective appliances should be fixed or removed from the premises.
As the weather gets better, thieves may start to target metal church roofs. Ecclesiastical has worked hard to help churches minimise the risk of metal theft and continues to provide helpful guidance and support. There are some things that churches can do to reduce the risk too:
- Mark your metal: Applying an approved forensic solution such as SmartWater to external metal is a condition of Ecclesiastical’s insurance policies. Don’t forget, if you are an Ecclesiastical customer you must register with SmartWater and display the signage provided in order to comply with the conditions of your insurance.
- Engage with your community: Join the local Neighbourhood Watch and encourage the community to walk past the church and report anything suspicious to the police.
- Install a roof alarm: If you have large amounts of metal on your church roof you may want to consider installing a roof alarm. Check with your insurer before you do so as they may have specific requirements or have recommended suppliers and they may be able to increase the level of cover you have if an approved alarm is fitted.
Village fetes, concerts and other community events have always been a vital part of church life. Churches are community buildings and usually a central hub for these kinds of activities. When it comes to holding events the main thing is that everyone has a great time and remains safe. Planning helps ensure that this happens.
- Managing health and safety: Make sure your event is properly planned, identifying any additional precautions that might be needed including how you would deal with an incident or emergency. Implement those precautions, providing any necessary information and training for employees and volunteers.
- Talk to your insurer: Especially if you are planning a special kind of event. They will make sure you have the right cover in place and provide further advice and guidance.
Every year one in four churches experiences theft, vandalism or arson. Most theft or arson is opportunistic so removing the opportunity can play a key role in deterring would-be thieves or arsonists.
- Keep your church open: A busy church is a less attractive target to thieves. Encourage people to pop in and visit the church, and, if possible, ensure someone is on site when the church is open. But make sure you lock the church overnight.
- Keep keys safe: Leave them with an official or in a secure place away from the church and maintain a list of key holders.
- Lock away and secure valuables: Keep?money, silver and valuables in a safe or a locked, secure room and replace items such as candlesticks with cheaper alternatives when services are not taking place.
- Protecting against theft of funds: Keep and monitor all receipts for deposits and investigate any discrepancies immediately. Divide responsibility for money, ensuring that no one person is left solely responsible for church funds.
Tall buildings attract lightning and church spires are often the highest point on the skyline, making them particularly vulnerable. A single bolt of lightning can contain up to a billion volts of electricity, which can cause considerable structural damage!
- Lightning conductors: There is no way to predict or prevent lightning strikes but fitting a lightning conductor will direct the energy away from the building and harmlessly into the ground. These should be properly maintained and inspected at least every four years.
Before the nights start to draw in, review your precautions for preventing slips and trips.
- Reducing the risk inside: Make sure spillages are cleaned up quickly, provide signage or visual clues to warn of changes in floor levels and remove any trip hazards such as electrical cables.
- Reducing the risk outside: Inspect paths and grounds periodically looking for damaged pathways, exposed tree roots or particularly worn areas. Repair or remove these where they present a danger and you can. If this is not possible, clearly highlight these hazards, considering the use of temporary barriers where appropriate.
As daylight hours start to shorten, review your precautions for those working alone in your church. One important consideration is the risk of violence or aggression. Whilst incidents of assault are thankfully rare, physical or verbal attacks can have serious physical and traumatic effects for those involved where they do occur.
- Identify situations where people work alone: you can then decide if the precautions you have in place are adequate or if you need others.
As the weather turns, it is time to prepare your church building and its grounds for what the winter weather might bring:
- Check pipes and lag them where necessary.
- Keep pathways clear, cleaning up falling leaves as these can be a slip hazard when wet.
- Check unoccupied buildings regularly for signs of water damage or malicious damage.
- Remove any dead or loose tree branches. Strong winds may dislodge these and cause property damage.
- Clear and check guttering for any cracks or leaks and get these fixed.
- Check your heating system and have temporary heating available should a failure occur.
With fireworks displays at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s a good reminder to check and refresh your own fire risk management procedures. You need to effectively manage the fire risk to your church and you need to meet your statutory obligations:
- Complete, record (in most cases a legal requirement if you have 5 or more employees) and review, where necessary, a sufficient risk assessment.
- Implement and maintain appropriate fire precautions to protect people.
- Eliminate or reduce the risk from dangerous substances.
- Provide adequate firefighting/fire detection equipment and emergency routes/exits.
- Implement procedures to deal with emergencies or serious and imminent danger.
- Appoint someone who is competent to assist you.
- Provide adequate training and information.
- Co-operate with others where appropriate.
- If you are holding a fireworks display, contact your insurer to make sure you have the appropriate insurance cover in place.
Christmas is a busy time for most churches. With increased visitors, Nativity, Christingle and other festive services, there is a lot to consider from a risk perspective. Below are Ecclesiastical’s Christmas top tips:
- Plan ahead: create a calendar of events so you are on top of all the festive services and activities.
- Safety and escape procedure: make sure your plans are up to date and cover the number of stewards required and their duties and escape routes.
- Review your fire risk assessment: There may be extra lights, including candles and other additional equipment in the church. Make sure that your existing precautions are adequate for these.
- Christmas lights: Make sure these are safe, carrying out any necessary checks of the lights and any additional power leads. Make sure that any power cables do not pose a trip hazard.
- Christmas trees: If you have a tree make sure it doesn’t obstruct exits and secure it so it doesn’t fall over.
There is more information, guidance and support available on the Ecclesiastical website www.ecclesiastical.com. Ecclesiastical’s church customers can also talk to a risk management expert by calling 0345 600 7531 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.