Church and community are intricately linked. Many churches and faith organisations provide services to benefit their members and the wider community – from food banks / parcels, children’s services and youth groups, through to homeless services, counselling, assistance for new migrants and more.
It’s important that churches reach out to their local communities in love and service. However they also need to take practical steps to keep people safe from harm through risk management and insurance cover. Doing so helps strengthen the church and build trust in the community.
Here are several ways to go about this.
1. Protection from harm in physical environments
Maintaining a safe physical enviroment should be a top priority for both safety and compliance. Accidents, injuries and illnesses can result from the following hazards and situations.
Slips, trips and falls
Risk management tips include regular floor inspections, use of non-slip mats, removal of trip hazards, step and floor repairs, providing adequate lighting, installing balustrades, and safe use of ladders. For more detailed information read our previous post on prevention of slips, trips and falls.
Fire and bushfires
Fire risk can be reduced through applying church Essential Safety Measures. The most common measures that apply to churches are maintenance of fire extinguishers, blankets and hose reels, exit signs, emergency lighting, exit doors and paths of travel to exits. Risk management includes regular testing of all fire equipment, and testing and tagging of electrical equipment. Our previous post on essential safety measures for faith organisations provides more detail.
Bushfire risk can also be reduced by preparing your property for the summer by removing combustible items and through garden maintenance and “firewise” planting. Read our earlier post on this topic for more information.
Grounds, gardens and carparks
Outdoor risk management is largely a matter of ongoing repairs and maintenance. This includes repairing cracks, potholes, damaged fencing and outdoor seating, and regular gardening and tree maintenance.
Carparks also need to be well-designed, kept in good repair and to provide adequate lighting and signage for users.
Children’s play equipment
Children need to be able to play freely and take some risks while being protected from injury at the same time.
Risk management includes good playground design, compliant surfaces and equipment, and provision of shade to reduce risk of sunburn.
In addition, if you run a child-minding service or creche for infants and toddlers, you will need to remove suffocation hazards and provide safe and age-appropriate toys and equipment.
Catering at events or functions
When providing food at any type of event there is always the risk of food poisoning or of allergic reactions in some individuals.
Risk management includes safe food handling and good hygiene practices, and being prepared for incidents of food allergies.
Insurance products relating to physical safety
Insurance provides financial protection for your church community and should form part of any rigorous risk management program.
The types of insurance to consider in this category include personal accident, general liability cover and property insurance. Refer to our insurance page for more detail on these policies.
2. Protection from harm through your services
When providing services you should take steps to ensure people’s wellbeing and reduce the risk of harm. Here’s how to go about this.
It’s essential that private and sensitive information is not compromised. Risk management for this involves developing strong privacy policies and taking measures to avoid data breaches. Our previous posts on data breach law and privacy policies provide more detail.
People can also be harmed through provision of services by faith organisations, such as counselling, prayer ministry, pastoral care and health and aged care services. In such situations you need to ensure people are not subject to negligence or pastoral misconduct.
Risk management measures include setting appropriate boundaries and rules regarding behaviour and conduct, establishing lines of accountability and more. Our post on professional indemnity has more info on this topic.
Insurance products relating to personal health and safety
The types of insurance to consider here include professional indemnity in case of claims of professional negligence, general or umbrella liability insurance and cyber cover for privacy liability. See the insurance page for more details on these products.
3. Protection from abuse
Abuse prevention is important for both adults and children. People need to know they are safe both within the faith community and when visiting the church.
Bullying and intimidation
Your community needs to be one that doesn’t allow bullying, harassment or discrimination against people on the basis of personal characteristics. Our previous posts on workplace bullying, sexual harassment and disability rights provide more information.
Safe places for children
It goes without saying that children must be kept safe in your community. Risk management measures include the creation of child protection policies, rigorous recruitment practices and providing guidelines and training to employees and church volunteers that work with children.
Insurance products relating to safe places for kids and adults
The main type of insurance to consider here is a General Liability – Public and Products policy. However take note of the known sexual offenders exclusion.
Also, for more information on public liability insurance for non profit organisations see our ‘Insurance Explained’ post on liability policies.
There are of course many other types of risk-related matters to consider in a faith environment besides the ones mentioned here. This includes terrorism, vandalism, disaster recovery and more. See below for some selected extra reading.
Understanding the basics of risk management for churches
Terrorism risk strategies for crowded places
Disaster recovery plans for faith organisations
Protecting your community from the effects of vandalism
Tags: insurance, risk management