Health and Safety in Churches

  riiverstock 20:41 13 Mar 2007

Normally a forum like this involves a wide range of people with an indepth knowledge of the rules we live under.
A young mother asked me if I knew anything regarding health and safety in churches.I did'nt.
The problem is that her children go to a Church of England school,where every so often the whole school squeezes into a smallish size church.This results in the aisles being totally blocked and therefore would be a real problem in an emergency.

Any ideas and facts would be a great help to my investigations.I've decided to initially contact a government health and safety web site and the local fire service.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 20:44 13 Mar 2007

One would assume that The Sky Pilot would take care of his flock but just in case he has provided me with leet Googling here


  Watchful 20:49 13 Mar 2007

It's a long time since I saw a church packed to the aisles and that was in the days when there weren't many H and S regulations. Happy days.

Hope you find what you're looking for on the link given by G.

  riiverstock 20:54 13 Mar 2007

The Lord works in wizardly ways and thankyou GANDALF <|:-)> for showing the light onto this problem.

Somehow I feel that doctrine may be more powerful in reality than we think.

  Woolwell 21:09 13 Mar 2007

Part of my job actually involves this subject.

The health and safety regulations and the fire regulations apply just as much to churches as to any other buildings.
However the Licensing Act does not apply to acts of worship or worship areas but the halls in churches may need to be licensed.

I would hope that most churches would be sensible about the blocking of aisles and take into account the difficulty of emergency exit.
Your Local Authority and the Fire Service are the regulatory bodies.
The church/school should have stewards available to assist in the event of an emergency. Regrettably this is often overlooked by voluntary organisations.

It would seem on the information that you have provided that they should be looking for a larger church.

Contrary to what most people think I have been to quite a few churches where they have been packed to the aisles. Not every Sunday admittedly but it still happens.

  riiverstock 21:18 13 Mar 2007

Woolwell I have been reading some of the links thrown up by the Google search but ,just like I thought,I could'nt pin down anything concrete.

The solution for the school is simple to hold 2 different services.Thanks for the info. that "the Licensing Act does not apply to acts of worship or worship areas but the halls in churches may need to be licensed."


  Woolwell 21:37 13 Mar 2007


The Licensing Act 2003 was the act that permitted pubs to open 24 hours a day and has a lot about noise and nuisance caused to neighbours. The act is also about entertainment and if a church hall is used for a play or a concert then it may well need a licence. Carol singers that sing at pre-arranged locations have to be licensed under the act.

The costs of complying with the act have caused problems for a number of village halls and I am glad that worship and the worship areas are exempt from that Act. However Health and Safety, Fire Regulations, Disability Discrimination and so on still have to be complied with.

As a matter of interest how many attended? If over 300 then the fire regulations are quite stringent. This is a short version:
click here

I would have thought that a gentle word with the head teacher and the vicar of the church pointing out the concerns about over crowding may well get the desired result.

  riiverstock 21:51 13 Mar 2007

Woolwell I believe around 200 primary school kids.

It simply comes down to whether it is acceptable to have any child sitting in an aisle.Putting aside the risk of fire,now if there was some incident resulting in panic then it is all too obvious that there would be casualties.

"gentle word with the head teacher and the vicar" made me smile.Deep breathing technique required for this action.

  Woolwell 22:00 13 Mar 2007


You are quite right to be concerned. Regrettably health and safety can be neglected in churches. Remembering that most who are involved do the work voluntary and and can claim (often with justification) to be swamped by the red-tape. The cost of complying is not insignificant. Installing emergency lighting and a comprehensive fire alarm system is not cheap but that is what most of the larger and even medium sized churches have to consider having.

As for the aisles - it depends how wide they are and how many stewards are present to ensure that all get out of the building safely. Common sense is usually all that is needed but tends to be forgotten in the excitement of a special event.

  hssutton 22:32 13 Mar 2007

I find this very interesting, mainly due to a problem that I'm having with the Social Services. I have a disable daughter who also suffers from severe learning difficulties.

My daughter at present travels a 30 mile round trip on a small bus to a unit which is ideal, insomuch as there is adequate room and facilities for people in wheelchairs

Due to recent legislatiom and the move to place people like my daughter into the "community" The place she attends at the moment is due to close, and transport to cease.

An alternative place has been offered nearer to home approx 6 mile round trip, but no transport is being offered.

Sorry about all that, but thought a little background was in order.

This alternative is in fact a smallish bungalow (3 bedroomed)with inadequate facilities. i.e. the access ramp is not to specification the rear fire exit is always blocked by wheelie bins. The doorways leading to the toilets are partially blocked by chairs, but worst of all in excess of 24 person including staff are in the building, making it almost impossible for my daughter to manoeuvre around the building.

My major concern is the fire risk, especially as there are a number of disabled people, but only my daughter who requires a wheelchair at all times

I have told Social services of my concerns and also would like to speak to the registration authorities, their response is we do the registration, but will not provide the name of the person/s who actually issued the registration

  Woolwell 23:35 13 Mar 2007

I am not sure what category the bungalow comes under Healthcare?: click here
You will see from this how useful the guidance is (rather is not useful!) click here
The problem is almost certainly lack of funding and over stretch of staff. The situation regarding the blocking of fire exits by wheelie bins is unacceptable. Have a word with your councillor but the local fire and rescue service are responsible for enforcing the Fire Regulations Act 2006. You may wish to contact them about your concerns.

For riiverside this is also useful:click here

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