A local church safety officer plays a very important role in the well-being of your church. They are a crucial leader in the ministry of risk management and a tremendous asset to a local pastor. As a primary leader in protecting the members of your local church, the safety officer partners with the pastor to provide leadership in this mission-driven area that uses practical risk management solutions to effectively minimize losses. As we explore the responsibilities of a safety officer, you will see the critical role this individual plays in maintaining a safe worship environment.One of the primary functions of a church safety officer is to be involved as much as possible in all aspects of the church. It takes a team effort to maintain a safe environment for your congregation. This should include the pastor, elders, deacons, church board, and church members. Good communication and a mission-focused approach is crucial to the successful protection of the church and their activities. When it comes to safety, the safety officer is the eyes and ears of the church.
Here are some of the critial areas a safety officer oversees:
Self-InspectionsA key component to preventing losses is to identify and correct hazardous conditions before accidents happen. With the assistance of a member or members of the safety committee, the safety officer should perform a walk-through of the church at least once a year. Hazards can come up quickly and unexpectedly. More frequent inspections allow you to catch these before potential incidents occur. All staff, elders, deacons, and volunteers should constantly be vigilant and report or correct hazards when identified. The Church Self-Inspection Form, available on adventistrisk.org, will help guide you through the church inspection process.
Slips, Trips, and FallsSlips, trips, and falls generally remain a primary cause of church accidents. They can be caused by a number of things, such as broken or missing handrails, broken steps, potholes, cracked sidewalks, torn or wrinkled carpet, gravel, twigs or other debris on walkways, or wet floors from inclement weather or spills. It is important that the safety officer makes sure the right team or persons promptly correct these conditions as soon as they are identified.
SecuritySecurity is more than installing cameras and alarms on doors and windows. A security program designed to protect people and property includes increasing visibility through the proper trimming of vegetation, good lighting (inside and out), and other elements. Everyone must be observant and responsive to suspicious activity, such as someone lurking in shadows or hallways, unattended packages, and other questionable situations.
Work with your hospitality volunteers to ensure they engage with persons entering the church campus and buildings, and make sure suspicious activity is always communicated to decision makers. For some churches, security may also mean the visible presence of a trained security team. Work with your safety committee to discuss the security needs of your church. If a trained security team is considered, coordinate with your conference to ensure policy and insurance needs are met.
Emergency Plans and PreparednessFor most churches, it’s business as usual week after week. But that can change in an instant, particularly in regions prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornados. There is also the potential for churches to be affected by civil unrest. Determine the primary exposures of your church, and update or create your church emergency plan accordingly.
Both leaders and members should be prepared to appropriately react to disasters as they arise. Make sure doors can be exited in an emergency (panic hardware is required in many jurisdictions), and ensure doorways, aisles, foyers, and steps are kept clear of anything (even chairs) to guarantee a clear means of exit in the event of an emergency. Find more emergency planning resources on www.adventistrisk.org.
ActivitiesList and evaluate church activities. Some are low-risk, while others are high-risk (with little to gain and a potential for accidents and injuries). It is critical to establish a process to properly analyze each activity before approving it. The process should include provisions for transportation, safety equipment, medical release forms for youth under the age of 18, and parent/guardian permission slips for each activity. With your safety committee, help develop written guidelines and rules, and be prepared to recommend that some activities be prohibited. Maintain a list of those types of activities that are prohibited. Church board approval will be required for some activities, and you should coordinate with your conference when there are questions.
TransportationWhen transportation needs are not carefully thought through, the potential of major incidents increases. A poorly-maintained vehicle or a reckless driver could result in a disaster. Selecting a vehicle that is too small can lead to overloading, sloppy vehicle handling, and loss of control.
Know how many people need transportation and how much gear will be packed, then plan accordingly. Never use 15-passenger vans for any purpose. Leasing a bus and driver from a reputable agency is an option to consider.
AccidentsWhen incidents or accidents occur at the church, during an activity, or in transit, the church safety officer and safety committee should conduct an investigation and record an incident report. Investigations help identify the causes and determine what actions might help prevent similar accidents from occurring again.
Safety officers are vital in serving and protecting the church. ARM is here to be a resource to ensure that your safety officer is equipped with everything needed to succeed.
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