Reducing Accidents in Maintenance and Construction Projects

Discover the importance of a safety supervisor.

Churches 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 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 ongoing maintenance and construction projects.

Many injuries, though, can be prevented by following a simple, orientation training for custodians and use of a safety supervisor for clean-up days and construction projects. In addition, churches should require outside contractors to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) requirements.

Custodial Training

Most churches 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 custodial and maintenance workers.

The Safety Supervisor

To minimize the risk of accidents during construction and clean-up days, churches 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.

Name and date

James F. Cobble, Jr., received his master of divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, and also has doctoral degrees from both Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Illinois.

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