Personal safety

It is advisable for every place of worship to contemplate the threat of violence to church workers and volunteers and consider measures that could be taken to reduce the risk of harm. Violence at work can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks.

Carry out a personal safety risk assessment to identify hazards and potential action that could be taken to reduce the risk. This will prove useful in providing information and guidance to employees and others at your place of worship.

Below are some personal safety guidance points to consider.

In the place of worship or church hall

  • It is good practice to ensure that individuals do not work in the church alone and where possible at least one other person should be present;
  • If an individual does work alone, then some form of communication should be provided, such as mobile phone or a personal alarm that is linked to an alarm system;
  • Ensure that church doorways and paths are well lit can provide a deterrent. If groups are congregating in the church grounds and they are intimidating, contact your local policing team for guidance;
  • Try to minimise the risk of theft by ensuring that the amount of cash on the premises is kept to a minimum. Encourage members to make electronic payments rather than cash and bank money more frequently. Always bank money with at least one other person and vary the route and the time you go;
  • It may also be advisable to advertise that no money or valuables are left on the church premises;
  • If your church collects cash for any reason for example fetes, at a church bookshop or for any activities ensure that these collection points are positioned in an area where they are not at risk. For example, positioned in a well-lit area and not too close to an exit point.

Away from the place of worship

  • If an employee (including volunteers and unpaid workers) is working alone away from the place of worship, it is advisable to ensure that they always let someone know their whereabouts and if their plans change they are able to let someone know;
  • When walking, advise employees to keep to a busy well-lit route and carry a personal attack alarm;
  • It is advisable to prevent employees carrying items of value or large amounts of cash;
  • Doors should be locked when travelling by car and valuables kept out of sight;
  • If your employee is visiting an unknown area it is good practice for them to have time to acquaint themselves with the surroundings before leaving the vehicle;
  • It is advisable, if your employees are visiting people’s homes, to advise them to familiarise themselves with the exit routes and always have an excuse prepared should they need to leave if they feel threatened in anyway.

Clergy and church officials are exposed to threats of violence not just within the church but also at home where people may call upon them out of hours at their homes.

To keep safe, it is important to follow some basic precautions.

  • Always check who is at the door; make sure that you can see out of the door but people can’t see in. This can be a spy hole or a CCTV system;
  • Never allow callers in to your home unless you know them. If you have a porch keep the door to the house locked and talk to the caller in the porch. If you are suspicious of someone talk through the door;
  • It is recommended that you do not give money to someone at the door. You could offer them alternatives such as food or clothing or vouchers for local shops;
  • If the caller is in need have a card that you could give them that lists 24 hours emergency numbers for social services, the local police or health professionals, or offer to call on their behalf. Never give them your phone to use.
  • Keep a log of the people calling at your home for future reference.

General advice if someone becomes violent

  • Do not get complacent, – always be aware of your surroundings;
  • Always adopt a non-threatening approach to diffuse the situation;
  • Have a mobile phone with you to call for help in an emergency, if it is safe to do so;
  • If someone becomes violent and demands money, hand it over, do not get involved in a physical struggle;
  • Contact the police as soon as possible, try to get a good description of your attacker and provide as much information as possible;
  • Report the violence to your denomination head office.
  • If there has been a major injury physically caused to an employee then this may need reporting in accordance with The Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). 

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