By Jose Reader
A series of health and safety workshops is giving parishes a new perspective on what it means to be welcoming.
The seminars are part of a project aimed at encouraging and resourcing parishes to improve their health and safety systems, says employment advisor Juliette Bowater.
Describing the Auckland workshop she attended as “thought provoking”, St Peter’s Ellerslie minister the Rev Sandra Warner says it opened her eyes to compliance issues that churches never used to have to worry about.
For instance, the workshop was the catalyst for Sandra introducing a health and safety brie. not before her annual pet blessing service. She says the workshop helped her appreciate that the church was open to liability if one of the pets harmed a child.
Sandra recommends that other parish ministers attend the workshops, saying “they were interesting and informative, but the logistics of implementing a health and safety programme in a small parish where money is short, and where personnel are short, is daunting”.
Both Auckland presbytery and St Peters are planning to bring the issues raised at the workshop to their respective leadership groups.
In Auckland presbytery’s case, they will be considering the appointment of a buildings officer whose responsibilities would include a health and safety component, explains Auckland’s presbytery clerk, Trevor Mosley.
The Rev Simon McLeay from St Columba at Botany Downs has been involved in the development of the web-based resource presented at the workshops, which is designed to assist parishes develop their own health and safety systems.
He explains that for around $20 a month, parishes get a health and safety training tool that will help them develop a system suited to their own environment. The resource includes a training component, templates such as hazard registers and accident recording forms, as well as a section with resources for keeping children safe.
Four parishes have already signed up to purchase the tool, Simon says.
He believes that a huge culture change is needed within the wider church, so that health and safety considerations become a core part of parishes’ activities.
Simon says that the web-based resource is a good place to start because it includes training and other information to help build understanding of what’s needed, as well as the templates needed to develop a health and safety system.
Those involved with rolling the project out to parishes say it’s often the simplest things that can make a difference – putting a lock on the cupboard with cleaning chemicals in it or putting up a hand-rail so that less-able parishioners can make it into the church more safely.
Trevor agrees, saying the workshop “caused people to think about ordinary situations in their own churches and realise that many potential dangers are often simple ones to correct – loose electric cords, impeded entrances, holes in the car park – and can be easily overcome with good general oversight”.