Churches and schools have ongoing maintenance needs and also engage in a wide range of construction projects. Whether it's a clean-up day, building new facilities, remodeling old ones, working on a house for Habitat for Humanity, or repairing homes for the poor, church members and school volunteers are active in maintenance and construction. Some custodians and members who work on these projects are expert carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. Many, though, are amateurs who rarely use circular saws, air powered nail guns, or other power equipment. The mix of inexperience, limited supervision, and power equipment poses real hazards. As a result serious accidents regularly occur in maintenance and construction projects.
Churches can prevent many injuries by following a simple, but effective program that provides training for custodians and use of a safety supervisor for clean-up days and construction projects. In addition, churches and schools should require outside contractors to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.
Most churches and schools have a paid custodian on staff. Often this person works alone and does many maintenance jobs that include the use of hand tools, power tools, ladders, and hazardous chemicals. Training in the safe use of equipment should be part of the orientation and continuing education program for custodians and maintenance workers.
Assign a safety supervisor
To minimize the risk of accidents during construction and clean-up days, churches and schools should appoint a competent person to serve as the safety supervisor. Every maintenance or construction project should have someone fill this position. The role of the safety supervisor is twofold: first, the supervisor monitors the work site and the workers for hazards, and corrects them when they are found; and second, the supervisor provides training and instruction to workers to minimize accidents and injuries.
The supervisor must have the authority to dictate safety measures. Every worker should understand the role and authority of the safety supervisor. To help communicate that role and authority, each worker should sign-in at the work site and agree to a provision such as the following sample work agreement:
Sample work agreement: To promote a safe work environment, First Church has designated (name of safety supervisor) to be the safety supervisor on this work project. The safety supervisor has full authority to dictate safety measures, and workers must comply with all safety precautions. I agree to abide by all safety rules for this project.