Guidance on First Aid in Churches

CLAS have published guidance on First Aid in churches.

We understand that several Church of England parishes have been getting telephone calls from first-aid trainers, telling them that they are legally required to have a trained first-aider at every service and church activity – and then being offered training courses by the person making the call.

The relevant extract from the Health and Safety Executive’s website (which, presumably, is authoritative) is as follows:

Employers' Duties: legal duties
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or become ill at work. These Regulations apply to all workplaces including those with five or fewer employees and to the self- employed. Detailed information can be found in the Approved Code of Practice and Guidance: First aid at work. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 L74.

What is adequate will depend on the circumstances in the workplace. This includes whether trained first aiders are needed, what should be included in a first aid box and if a first aid room is needed. Employers should carry out an assessment of first aid needs to determine this.

The Regulations do not place a legal obligation on employers to make first aid provision for non-employees such as the public or children in schools. However, HSE strongly recommends that non-employees are included in a first aid needs assessment and that provision is made for them.

The Regulations are about health and safety at work – and most churches have very few employees: the minister (but the employment status of clergy is a complicated legal issue in any case: see Percy v Church of Scotland Board of National Mission and New Testament Church of God v Stewart), possibly the organist and maybe a part-time cleaner or two. Members of the congregation are not employees. Given the age-profile of many them, it may well be sensible for congregations to have two or three first-aiders simply as good practice: but it does not appear that they are legally-obliged to do so.

Where the Regulations do come into play is in churches with permanent employees: vergers, cafeteria and bookshop staff and suchlike. But – presumably – any responsible employer in such circumstances would have a robust health and safety policy as a matter of course.

[Source: CLAS – 4 March 2009]