I want to share with you all a couple of very interesting health and safety cases that local church’s need be aware of. I know this Blog is dedicated to disabilities but safety and health affects all of us so please allow me a little elbow room.
As is often the case the cases referred to are speaking about private organisations that are set up to generate income and profit, but places of worship do fall under the same health and safety legislation and should therefore be aware of these serious matters.
The first is about a joiner who was replacing fence posts in domestic properties for his employer. The joiner struck an underground cable receiving an electric shock. This could easily had led to death, but in this instance, thankfully, did not. The employer was found guilty of failing to protect its employee from being exposed to a foreseeable risk. The fine and costs came to over £15,000. Not a sum any church council I know could afford.
Comment: Churches do have buried services, i.e. electric cables, water pipes, and gas pipes. Some of these may be on plans of the church property. But even if they are often the plans are not precise, believe me this is my area of expertise and I am still amazed how wrong plans can be. When such work is planned a risk assessment is necessary, and the possibility of such hazards being present must be noted. Actions may be to get an organisation in to map the services for you, but costly. Or to dig with great care, not with heavy spades, less costly but the confidence of no injury would need to be much higher. That is what the risk assessment is all about, not just a paper exercise.
The second Case:
Quite simple, and one I have written about before. Employer Liability Insurance.
The law requires that any employer has Employer Liability Insurance, so where a church pays someone to clean the church, garden, verger, bookkeeping and so on even if it is only for a couple of hours per week it is an employer employee relationship hence Employer Liability Insurance is required; see - https://www.gov.uk/employers-liability-insurance
Recently a restaurant in Maidstone found themselves over £3,000 worse off after going to court for failing to have Employer Liability Insurance, and no doubt that they have now forked out for the insurance.
Comment: Interestingly if any of their employees has had an accident over the past three years and makes a claim against the restaurant the owner will have a shock; a very costly shock! This is why we need such an insurance cover, often churches will find that they are covered as part of their general policy – but this must be checked and then the certificate of Employer Liability Insurance must be displayed. We should never consider Employer Liability Insurance as a problem but rather as a friend, for if things do go wrong and someone working for us is injured then the insurance could be worth more than its weight in gold.
Case one: HSE v Berneslai Homes Ltd  (http://press.hse.gov.uk/2015/company-sentenced-after-employee-received-electric-shock/ Accessed 07/10/2015)
Case Two: HSE v Hasret Sasmaz, trading as Starburger  (http://press.hse.gov.uk/2015/restaurant-owner-fined-over-employer-liability-insurance/ Accessed 07/10/2015)