Religious and Faith-based organisations face several additional liability insurance exposures because doors to their facilities often remain open for long periods, and people are constantly entering and exiting the premises. To make risk assessment more complicated, people representing these organisations often congregate in locations other than their main facility.
As such Public Liability Insurance for religious organisations requires specific attention to ensure that you are covered for external events, as well as any injury to members of the public visiting your place of worship.
Cover at Church or Place of Worship
One key area to examine is specifically the risk associated with faith-based organisations when your Church, or Place of Worship, is full of participants, volunteers, members, visitors and any employees. This will help you understand the preventative steps you should take to make sure everyone inside your facility stays safe, both on a day-to-day basis and in emergency situations.
At many religious organisations, there are normally several days during the week, especially at certain times of the year, where the place of worship is filled to capacity. During these times, you need to be especially aware of the potential for hazards.
The key Public Liability risk lies in the fact that many people are gathered in a single, confined space with limited exits and little or no information on how to handle an emergency. Make sure your emergency action or disaster recovery plan is comprehensive and addresses all key aspects of this risk.
Adequate and frequent risk assessments will help you to manage exposure and in turn the cost of your Place of Worship or Church Insurance, working in tandem with your disaster planning process.
While a natural disaster presents a concern for a business, religious organisations must also have a detailed plan for keeping all attendees, visitors and staff safe because many people in the facility might not be aware of your emergency action plan.
The first step is to make sure your leadership team or committee allocates an individual, or better yet, an organised safety response team, which has a plan of action for any possible type of situation, including fire, flood, terrorist activity etc.
You should include practical ways to keep people calm avoiding panic, giving clear instructions to direct everyone to a safe area as quickly as possible. Also, make sure it is clear who has the keys to shut down water, electricity or other utilities in emergency situations. Know when this is a necessary step in the process and who should be responsible for taking care of it.
With the volume of people constantly entering and leaving your building, it is impossible to know every person’s health condition. Therefore, medical emergencies are a real and genuine hazard to your organisation.
As with natural disasters, you should make sure your safety response team or has a specific plan of action. The plan should pre-determine who to call, what actions to take to keep the person(s) safe and how to ensure the group entity will not take on any additional liabilities by treating or assisting the ill or injured person.
Risk Of Violence
While it may be unpleasant to consider the possibility, religious organisations do suffer a heightened risk of violence, partly due to the ease of access with doors being regularly kept open.
To mitigate this risk, try having a volunteer or member of staff sitting near the door to greet each visitor. While this may not directly deter all acts of violence, an intruder will be less tempted to enter the building if he or she is aware of being observed. Encourage everyone in the organisation, especially committee or staff members, to report suspicious activity or individuals.
If you are confronted with violence, whether it is a bomb threat or an armed intruder, be prepared with a clearly defined action plan. Make sure it includes plans for securing rooms, allowing people to exit the building, calling the police and otherwise shielding people from harm.
Other Public Liability Concerns
Slips and Trips
In addition to preparing for large-scale incidents, there are other, day-to-day steps you can take to reduce your religious organisation’s risk. Slips, trips and falls may seem like a small issue, but they can also cause severe injuries and represent a significant area of claims under a Church Insurance policy.
Be sure to hide or smoothly cover all cables and wires on the floor. Also, take the proper steps to protect visitors and staff from falls on ramps or stairs, whether inside or outside the facility.
Another area often overlooked is the risk of falls in your parking area. You have a duty of care to keep these areas safe, as such, in winter weather, properly salt car parks and pathways as well as ensuring snow is cleared. Steps and handrails should also be clearly marked and well maintained.
Child safety and protection is another area of concern for religious groups and organisations. If you have a nursery, crèche or other day-care or youth club, you should take extra precautions to ensure the group is prepared to handle young people, and does not contain hazards such as power sockets or sharp objects. Public Liability cover for abuse and sexual misconduct is also important in this situation. You should check your Church or Religious Faith Insurance policy carefully to ensure that abuse cover is in place as this is often excluded by some insurers.
Kitchens and Food Preparation Areas
If you have a kitchen or any other food preparation area, it is recommended that you devise a policy that only allows access to authorised members of the organisation. Kitchen fires or knife injuries are a common threat to the safety of church facilities, so be stern about your regulation of these areas and never allow anyone to leave cooking items unattended.
Individuals involved in food preparation or cooking should receive adequate training on use of all equipment and fire safety procedures.
The most comprehensive way to uncover liability concerns is to conduct a complete risk analysis for your organisation. While it is impossible to predict every risk that you face, it will help to build a clear picture of the specific risks.
In addition to hazards inside the facility itself, there are other risks associated with events you host off-site, using personal cars or vans to transport staff and using volunteers. Analyse all activities you administer to avoid expensive liability claims and time-consuming legal actions.
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