Workplace safety issues can get complicated for churches. You have employees, volunteers, and guests coming together in one place. Possible safety issues could include a fire or a vehicle accident as well as ergonomic and organizational hazards. We put together a few workplace safety tips to help make sure your church and its workers are protected.
Do Churches Have to Comply With OSHA?
While the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) does exempt religious establishments and worship services, these exemptions are limited to churches that don’t affect interstate commerce.
If one or more people partake in secular activities, the church is considered an employer under the act and must comply with OSHA regulations. For example, administrative staff or teachers would be covered under OSHA.
These secular activities could include:
- Office management
- Day care
- Running a church bookstore
- Selling products
- Hospital care
- Social services
- Radio or TV media
If you’re not sure if a certain person or activity is covered, you can read through OSHA’s guidelines. Employers that are subject to OSHA must provide a safe work environment. Plus, you want to do everything you can to protect your congregation as well as your church’s finances.
In addition to employee safety, you must consider fire safety. Even if your church doesn’t use candles for services, it’s still wise to pay attention to the fire safety guidelines from OHSA, the International Fire Code (IFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
First, you need to identify any potential fire hazards and figure out your church seating capacity. Most buildings need at least 2 exits, but more exits may be required, based on building occupancy, size, and layout. In the event of a fire, everyone must be able to reach an exit that’s unblocked, clearly labeled, and within a certain distance.
You need a written fire prevention plan, a fire escape plan, fire extinguishers, and employees that are trained to use them. It’s also important to make sure your fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and alarms are regularly checked and maintained.
Church Building Safety
All passageways, storage areas, service rooms, and walking-working areas should be kept clean, orderly, dry, and free from hazards.
Stairways are another potential church safety hazard. All stairways need railings, and OSHA has stairway guidelines for everything from maximum riser height and tread depth to vertical clearance and landing size.
Physical Labor Safety
If your church has employees or contractors performing physical labor, make sure they have a safe place to work and proper equipment that’s in working condition. That includes a fully stocked first aid kit and personal protective equipment, like gloves, goggles, masks, and hard hats.
It’s not required, but OSHA recommends that every workplace have at least one employee who’s certified in CPR and first aid.
We hope that these tips help you keep your church as safe as possible. In the case that an accident does happen, make sure to properly document the incident.
For more information on church safety, check out this article on security at a church.