Places of Religious Worship

It is important to understand that more than one piece of fire safety legislation and/or fire safety guidance can be applied to any individual premises. For instance take a chuch hall where the The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies. The most appropriate guide for is likely to be Small and Medium Places of Assembly or Large Places of Assembly. However, if the the church also has a boarding school attached, further fire safety guidance documents, such as Educational Premises or Sleeping Accommodation will also apply.

Fire Safety Legislation for new buildings

New and altered premises are subject to the Building Regulations and the guidance for fire matters are dealt with by Approved Document Part B Fire Safety. Within that document appendix G and H there is a list, of other guidance documents that may be relevant.

Fire Safety Guides for England and Wales

The guides are aimed at the Responsible Person and describe what you have to do to comply with fire safety law. It helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place. The core guides are intended for premises where the main use of the building is as a small (up to 60 people), medium (up to 300 people) or a large (more than 300 people) place of assembly. It includes places of religious worship or study and associated premises, even temporary structures and marquees/tents.

This guide may also be suitable where the premises adjoin other complexes, although co-operation with the other managers will be necessary as part of an integrated risk assessment for the complex. If you read the guide and decide that you are unable to apply the guidance, then you should seek expert advice from a competent person. More complex premises will probably need to be assessed by a person who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment.

Fire safety is only one of many safety issues management must address to minimise the risk of injury or death to staff or the public. Unlike most of the other safety concerns, fire has the potential to injure or kill large numbers of people very quickly. This guidance is concerned only with fire safety, but many of the measures discussed here will impact upon other safety issues, and vice versa. It is recognised that these differing safety demands can sometimes affect one another and management should consult other interested agencies, such as the Local Authority, where necessary to confirm that they are not contravening other legislation or guidance.

Help with your Fire Risk Assessment

Fire safety provider Safelincs has created a range of fire safety videos for churches that follow a standard fire risk assessment format (downloadable for free) that explain the different sections in easy-to-understand language. Safelincs are the official fire safety provider for the Church of England as well as for  the Catholic Church in the UK.

Church Safety

Health and Safety is an increasingly important part of everyday life in Churches and Places of Worship. Church Safety is well established as a leader in providing H & S support to Places of Worship. There are a number of reasons why H & S is essential for every Place of Worship and you will find information on a number of H & S topics on their website.

The National Church Watch organisation

The most common causes of fire in place of worship is arson attacks and these can be reduced if a good security system is in place. If you require information on security in places of worship it is worth contacting the National Church Watch.

The Churches’ Legislative Advisory Service

The subjects covered by the service range from fire safety, taxation, heritage grants and charity law to marriage law, immigration rules, planning and building regulations and water charges. Circulars are issued free of charge, giving information and advice. The Churches’ Legislative Advisory Service

Arson Prevention

Arson is the single most common cause of fire in premises and 45% of all serious fires are a result of arson. Much of this is not targeted and the vast majority of arson attacks are down to opportunist vandalism. Apart from the need to comply with the law the Responsible Person has a duty to himself and the premises she/he is responsible for to reduce this risk to as low as reasonable possible. Information to assist you, to achieve these aims, go to my page on How to Combat Arson


March 17, 2011[Last updated: March 30, 2019]

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