All church building owners and occupiers have legal and duty-of-care obligations to provide safe premises for use by members, visitors, workers and volunteers. Part of this compliance involves the conducting of regular maintenance of essential safety measures with regard to such areas as fire safety systems, emergency lighting, and building exits.
Faith Insurance recommends a 3-step ‘maintain, record and comply’ risk management system for keeping on top of all required essential safety measures.
What are the essential safety measures?
There are more than fifty essential safety measures as defined by the BCA (Building Codes of Australia). Seven of these are common in church buildings:
- Portable fire extinguishers.
- Fire blankets.
- Fire hose reels.
- Exit signs.
- Emergency lighting.
- Exit doors.
- Paths of travel to exits and discharge from exits.
While fire equipment should be regularly tested by qualified tradespeople, some of the other tests may be conducted by a competent or qualified person. This however depends on the type of test.
In addition to the above, it is a WorkSafe requirement that electrical testing and tagging is carried out by a qualified electrical tradesperson at least once every year in places of employment. More information on this can be found here.
What consequences are there for non-compliance?
Compliance audits may be conducted by WorkSafe, the Fire Brigade, insurance assessors, Council building surveyors or other authorities. Where care was taken but an omission occurred, the organisation may need to comply within a set period of time. However if duty of care is found to be lacking it’s a different situation. The organisation then faces the possibility of a substantial fine. In some cases could face possible prosecution, building closure, and voiding of insurance. There is also the possibility of being sued if an injury or death has occurred. Compliance also helps to keep the organisation’s insurance claims and costs under better control.
Training for your teams
RLink/Redbook Risk Management is an organisation that provides tailored resources (including safety manuals and training) to help faith organisations meet their safety and compliance obligations. You can find out more from the Redbook website.
For more information on essential safety measures and fire safety regulations for churches contact our office.
Written by Tess OliverTags: fire, risk management