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Risk Management


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Accident Safety




Baby Gates









Changing Tables

Cold Weather

Copyright Law












Fire Safety



Forms of Violence







Heat Safety






Intruder policies















Natural Peril






Nursery Safety











Public Domain






Recreational Activities

Release Forms








    Natural Peril



    Recreational Activities












Transportation Safety










Water Safety

Works for Hire








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As unfortunate as they are, accidents do happen. The church needs to be prepared to handle accidents. You can set up your own emergency procedure and distribute it within the church.  This way, if an accident or injury should occur, everyone will know what to do.  The victim will receive help as quickly as possible.  In serious accidents, gaining even a few extra minutes can save a life.


  • First, make the victim as comfortable as possible.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE THE VICTIM.  Keep him/her warm.  Administer first aid only if you have the proper training.
  • Next, call an ambulance and police or fire departments as necessary.  It’s best to call directly, rather than dialing the operator.  Don’t forget to give the address clearly and distinctly.
  • Get the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses.
  • Notify the victim’s family.  Avoid undue panic – explain the situation calmly.  Tell the family that you have called an ambulance and that help is on the way.  If the ambulance has already arrived, tell the family which hospital the victim is being taken to.
  • Cooperate with police and fire department investigators.  If you are a witness, you can answer questions about the accident.  Provide investigators with your list of witnesses.
  • As soon as possible after the victim has been provided for, and preliminary investigation has been made, inform your insurance agent of the accident.  Tell what happened simply and factually.  Provide the names of any witnesses.  This will facilitate fast, equitable settlement of claims for those injured.

For additional safety information, contact: Church Mutual’s Loss Control Department, the National Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Labor, your local chapter of the American Red Cross, or your local police and fire departments.  In most cases, information is free.


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Accident Safety


The majority of accidents that occur on church property are from slips and falls. To reduce the risk of such accidents, consider the following:


  • Inspect carpet for tears and rolls.

  • If using rugs at entrances, make sure they stay in place and do not slide on the floor surface.

  • Make sure all microphone and electronic equipment wires are covered.

  • Clear stairs of any debris.

  • Make sure all handrails are steady and tight.

  • During winter months, clear icy areas with de-icer.

  • Check parking lot for uneven pavement, chuck-holes, etc. Make repairs as quickly as possible. Place markers around hazardous area until it can be repaired.

  • Post notices warning people of wet or freshly waxed floors.

  • Make sure all hallway, stairway, and exterior lighting is operating properly.


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Baby Gates


Baby gates are not recommended for churches. However many churches do use them in their nurseries. To insure safe usage the “Baby Parenting” website recommends the following:


If baby gates are used to keep children in the nursery, consider the following: 

  • Choose a gate with a straight top edge and rigid bars or mesh screen, or an accordion-style gate with small V-shapes and diamond-shaped openings. Entrances to V-shapes should be no more than 1 ½ inches (38 mm) in width to prevent head entrapment.
  • Be sure the baby gate is securely anchored in the doorway or stairway it is blocking.
  • Gates that are retained with an expanding pressure bar should be installed with this bar on the side away from the child. A pressure bar may be used as a toehold by a child to climb over a gate.

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Three preventative measures can greatly reduce the number of injuries associated with baseball and softball.  They include using helmets with a face guard, substituting softer baseballs and softballs for the standard ones, and using modified safety bases.


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Many churches are beginning to offer biking tours for the youth and congregation. The “Kids Health” website recommends the following road rules:


Road Rules:

  • Always ride with your hands on the handlebars.

  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, an alley, or a curb.

  • Cross at intersections. When you pull out between parked cars, drivers can't see you coming.

  • Walk your bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.

  • Ride on the right-hand side of the street, so you travel in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic.

  • Use bike lanes or designated bike routes wherever you can.

  • Don't ride too close to parked cars. Doors can open suddenly.

  • Stop at all stop signs and obey street (red) lights just as cars do.

  • Ride single file on the street with friends.

  • When passing other bikers or people on the street, always pass to their left side, and call out "On your left!" so they know that you are coming.



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Basketball facilities can be indoors or outdoors. The following are recommended for each area.



  •    Area needs to be clear of debris to reduce risk of injury.

  •    Area should be well lit.

  •    If part of a church activity, provide referees to reduce rough housing.


  •  Area needs to be clear of obstacles.
  •  Proper shoes need to be worn.
  •  Provide referees to reduce rough housing.
  •  Keep activities age appropriate.
  •  Area should be well lit.

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When providing camping experiences for the church’s youth or children consider the following:

  •   Be aware of possible weather conditions during the experience.
  •   Have knowledge of bugs, poisonous plants, or wildlife that may be in the   camping area.
  •   Be aware of allergies youth or children may have.
  •   Know proper handling of campfires or outdoor grills.
  •   Have a map of the area.
  •   Carry a first-aid kit and bug repellent.
  •   Keep all food sealed in tight containers, outside tents so not to attract  animals.
  •    If camping near water, instruct campers on water safety.

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The Department of Natural Resources of the state of Wisconsin provides the following rules to be observed when experiencing a canoeing activity:

  • To get into your canoe:

  • Have someone hold the canoe steady – you don’t want to tip the canoe before you even get out on the water!
  • Crouch low - keep your knees bent and
  • Grab the sides of the canoe for balance as you walk to your seat
  • Always walk along the center – keeping your feet on the centerline will help keep the canoe from rocking.
  • Stay low – do not stand up or walk in your canoe when you are away from shore.

  • Always wear your life jacket - you never know when you might fall out or tip over unexpectedly.

  • Avoid sudden or jerky movements – rocking from side to side could cause the canoe to tip over.

  • Be aware of the currents in the water – you don’t want to end up floating farther downstream than you planned. If the current starts to pull you along faster or you see lots of rocks in the water ahead of you paddle away from them or paddle towards the shore.

  • Always sit on the seats or in the center of the canoe – sitting on the side of a canoe will cause it to tip over.

  • Stay away from low hanging trees and branches near the shore.

  • Do not canoe in bad weather.

  • Avoid letting big waves hit the side of your canoe – always try to keep your canoe at a right angle to the waves otherwise the wave might push your canoe over.

  • If your canoe tips over:


  • Stay with your canoe
  • Paddle or push your canoe to shore – with the help of the other person in your canoe, you can get out in shallow water and flip the canoe to dump out the water and climb in. Your canoe will float even if its full of water until you can get to shore to empty it.
  • Always bring along extra clothing in a waterproof container- you want to be prepared in case your canoe tips or the weather changes.
  • Be sure to bring the proper equipment:

  • Sun protection – hats, sunscreen, long sleeves and pants
  • First aid kit
  • Plenty of food and water
  • Life vests
  • Map – be sure you know where you are so you do not get lost!
  • Tie all your equipment to the canoe – put your equipment into a waterproof bag to keep it dry and tie it to one of the center beams in the canoe so that you don’t lose everything if your canoe tips over.

  • Do not litter – carry out everything you bring in – the animals don’t like a messy home.



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Changing Tables


Churches use either table models or wall-hung models of changing tables.


When using table models:

  • Check for any sharp edges.
  •  Keep baby powder, wipes, etc. out of baby’s reach.
  •  Never leave baby unattended on table.
  •  Provide antibacterial wipes to keep changing surface clean.
  •  Make sure table is sturdy.

When using wall-hung model:

  • Make sure unit is securely attached to the wall.
  • Use safety straps.
  • Keep baby powder, wipes, etc. out of baby’s reach.
  • Never leave baby unattended.
  • Provide antibacterial wipes to keep changing surface clean.

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Cold Weather


The American Red Cross provides the following cold weather tips.


  • Stay indoors during the storm.

  • If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.

  • Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rated, driving down the body temperature.

  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.

  • After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion.

  • Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must...

    • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

    • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

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Copyright Law


The church must realize that all music, cantatas, dramas, Sunday School materials, books, etc., are the intellectual property of its creator. The term intellectual property means:


“Any product of the human intellect where ownership can be claimed and protected by law.”

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Just because a piece of music, a book, an article on the Internet does not have a copyright symbol attached does not mean that it isn’t copyrighted. Therefore, before making any copies of music for choir practice, sound recordings for choir members to study, videos to be displayed such as in a sermon, adding music to websites, and the list could go on and on, churches need to make sure they have the proper permission and licenses.


Churches do have permission to perform copyrighted religious works in worship services without first obtaining permission.


“The Copyright Law permits the performance of copyrighted religious works in the course of services at places of worship or at religious assemblies. However, performance licenses must be obtained from the copyright owner for any musical performance outside of a specific “worship service” including concerts and special musical programs.”

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Churches can receive assistance for obtaining copyright permission and licenses for music and videos through:


Christian Copyright Licensing, INC. (CCLI)


6130 NE 78th Court, Suite C-11

Portland, OR 97218


Many churches have photo copies of choir music, praise band music, etc. These documents should be destroyed at once. Law enforcement considers this harboring stolen goods. The penalties for having these unauthorized copies are as follows:


“The law provides for the owner of a copyright to recover damages ranging from $500 to $100,000 per copyright infringed. If willfull infringement for commercial advantage and private financial gain is proved, criminal fines of up to $250,000 and/or five years imprisonment may apply.”

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This would also include the audio and video recording of church worship services. However, the CCLI license does permit a limited number of recordings for use in the congregation.


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Pastors need to be specific in establishing boundaries when meeting with individuals of the opposite sex. When establishing boundaries consider:


  • Having third person present.

  • Leaving office door ajar.

  • Have window in office door or beside office door.

  • Have someone regularly walk past your office or have person stationed outside your office.

  • Never meet individual in a secluded location.

  • Limit the number of times you will meet with the individual. Unless you have a counseling license, it may be best to refer individuals that need extended assistance to a local counseling service.


Unless pastors have education in counseling and carry counseling licenses, they should not state they offer “counseling” services. Stating such could open the pastor for charges of malpractice or sexual misconduct. Pastors need to know the state specific laws regarding counseling.


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“Parents” website recommends the following guidelines for crib safety:

  • Remove bumper pads, toys, pillows, and stuffed animals from the crib by the time the baby can pull up to stand.
  • Remove all crib gyms, hanging toys, and decorations from the crib by the time the baby can get up on his hands and knees.
  • Make sure the crib has no elevated corner posts or decorative cutouts in the end panels.
  • Fit the crib mattress snugly, without any gaps, so the baby can’t slip in between the crack and the crib side.
  • Make sure slots on the crib are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Make sure that all screws, bolts, and hardware – including mattress supports – are in tight to prevent the crib from collapsing.
  • Make sure there are not plastic bags or other plastic material in or around the crib.
  • Check the crib for small parts and pieces that the baby could choke on.
  • To reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), put the baby to sleep on her back in a crib with a firm, flat mattress – no soft bedding underneath her.

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Defamation occurs when a person’s reputation is damaged by malicious oral or written statements that are false. Defamation lawsuits can be destructive for all involved.


For detailed information see Block B2-The Church and the Law.


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Fire Safety


A fire to a church can be devastating to a congregation. There are proactive measures that churches can use to reduce the risk of a fire.


  • Keep combustibles away from electrical boxes and heating equipment. This includes boxes, paints, fuels for lawn care equipments, oils, paper, etc.

  • Keep functioning fire extinguishers located throughout the facility. Especially have extinguishers located in the kitchen area, sanctuary area, furnace room, storage area, and office areas. Extinguishers should be checked on a regular basis. Contact your local fire marshal for an appropriate schedule.

  • Schedule fire inspections with your local fire marshal. Better to be safe than sorry. Remember you are a public facility and owe it to the people entering your doors to provide a safe environment.

  • Inspect electrical wiring for frayed wires or shorts. Check electrical outlets for shorts. Make sure outlets are over taxed with too much being attached to them.

  • Inspect extensions to make sure they are the proper type for their use.

  • Check all kitchen appliances for any sign of unusual wear, dirt, grease, etc.

  • Keep all flammable liquids in a safety cabinet away from any source of heat.

  • If using candles, never leave them unattended. Do not burn candles in bathrooms or classrooms.


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Churches should only use fireworks that are provided by a professional service. When considering having a fireworks display:


  • Secure a professional service.

  • Make sure area is appropriate for such a display.

  • Make sure there is significant distance between crowd and where fireworks are being ignited to reduce the risk of injury from errant fireworks.

  • Monitor the weather.

  • Have proper fire extinguishers on site.

  • Provide crowd control.


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The government weather website provides the following information regarding floods:


When you receive a Flood Watch:

  • A Watch is issued when flooding is possible within the watch area. When a flood watch is issued, you should be aware of potential flood hazards. Everyone in a Watch area should be ready to respond and act quickly.

  • Have an evacuation plan in place BEFORE flooding occurs. Flooded roads may cut off your escape route. Head for higher ground before the water becomes too deep. Remember – just six inches of rapidly flowing water can knock you off your feet.

  • Know your flood risk and the elevation above which flooding occurs. Do streams or rivers near you flood easily? If so, be prepared to move to a safe place. Know your evacuation routes.

  • Find out if you are located in a high, medium, or low flood risk area. Check with your city or county government to find out if your community is participating in the National Flood Insurance Program. Start with the Building or Planning Department to review the Flood Insurance Rate Maps, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  • Develop an evacuation plan. Everyone in your family should know where to go if they have to leave.

  • Discuss flood plans with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing flood plans ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.

  • Determine if the roads you normally travel to reach your home or job will be flooded during a storm. If so, look for alternative routes to use during flooding.

  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, a battery-powered portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order with extra batteries.

  • Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home.

  • Keep your automobile fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for days.

  • Store drinking water in food-grade containers. Water service may be interrupted.

  • Keep a stock of food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration; electric power may be interrupted.

  • Keep first-aid supplies and prescription medicines on hand.


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Forms of Violence


There are various forms of violence that a church can encounter. These can include:


  • intruders that are armed, intoxicated, belligerent, etc.

  • harassment between church staff, church staff & members, or between members

  • abuse of various forms

  • fighting

  • vandalism


Church need to have policies and procedures in place to handle such situations. For guidelines to develop such policies and procedures see Block D4- Violence in the Church.


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The National Safety Council recommends the following guidelines when having hayrides:


To approach the planning and coordination of a hayride, consider the 3 H's: H itching, Highways and Horseplay. 

  • Hitching includes the wagon, the tractor or truck that is pulling the wagon, and the safeguards used to ensure that the wagon is properly attached. Never attach more than one wagon behind the pulling vehicle. Extra wagons make the "snaking" action of the caravan more severe and may result in sideswiping or overturning of the trailing wagons. A truck or tractor should never pull a wagon so fast that it sways out of a straight line "Proper hitching also includes using a well-designed hitch pin with a clip or lock between the wagon and the pulling vehicle; and installing safety chains to ensure that the wagon does not disconnect while in motion," according to Professor Dennis J. Murphy, agricultural safety specialist at the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Highway considerations include the careful planning of the hayride route. Highways with excessive vehicular traffic moving at high rates of speed should be avoided at all costs. Hayride organizers should consult with local law enforcement agencies to seek their advice on which roads to use. These agencies may also be willing to provide security and safety during the hayride. To further reduce the highway hayride hazard, have escort vehicles traveling in front and in back of the hayride with their emergency lights activated. Of course, your hayride could stay off highways altogether!
  • Horseplay on a hayride should not be tolerated and may become an unwanted distraction to the driver. Adult supervision is a must! Hayride participants can easily fall from a wagon or truck and be run over by the vehicle’s wheels causing traumatic injuries. All riders should be sitting down while the wagon or truck is moving. Be sure these rules are clearly stated to all participants before the ride begins.

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Heat Safety


The government weather website recommends the following heat safety tips:

  • Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.

  • Dress for summer. Lightweight light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.

  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss. Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.

  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages.

  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot weather) in an air conditioned environment affords some protection.

  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult

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Know These Heat Disorder Symptoms

  • Sunburn: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches. First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If breaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

  • Heat Cramps: Painful spasms usually in muscles of legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use.

  • Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting. First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Heat Stroke (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F. or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. Move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

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When planning hiking experiences for the church’s youth or children consider the following:


  • Be aware of the weather conditions of the day(s) of the hike.

  • Carry a detailed trail map.

  • Make sure to have a first-aid kit along.

  • Hikers should have appropriate shoes and clothing.

  • Each hiker should carry water or Gatorade.

  • If the hike could possibly last into the evening, hikers should have flashlights.

  • If possible have someone hike the chosen trail before the scheduled hike to see if there are areas that may be difficult for inexperienced hikers.

  • Make sure the difficulty of the trail matches the skill of the hikers.


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The policies and procedures manual should contain a section that details the various inspections that will take place at the church along with the timetable by which these will occur. These inspections should include but not be limited to:


  • Heating and cooling systems

  • Stairwells: interior and exterior

  • Electrical systems

  • Playground equipment (if applicable)

  • Vehicles

  • Carpeting

  • Security Systems

  • Gym equipment (if applicable)

  • Parking lot

  • Kitchen appliances

  • Buildings: interior and exterior

  • Store rooms

  • Fire extinguishers

  • Insurance policies


Specific checklists can be purchased at .


All inspections should be carried out systematically and intentionally. All findings should be well documented. This documentation should include whether things are okay or in need of repair. If repairs are necessary, specific reports should be developed which include:


  • The date the problem(s) was discovered.

  • The name of the inspector.

  • The specific problem.

  • The date the problem was corrected.

  • The name of who corrected the problem.


This report should be kept with the original report.


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Intruder Policies


Churches need to be prepared to handle the possibility of intruders. They should have policies and procedures in place. For details in developing these policies and procedures see Block D4 – Violence in the Church.


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Churches need to do regular audits on their insurance coverage. They need to consider whether there is adequate coverage for:


  • Building replacement

  • Auto replacement or accident

  • Personal injury

  • Misconduct

  • Property damage

  • Worker’s Compensation

  • Theft

  • Bonding


For detailed information regarding the various forms of insurance see Block B2 – The Church and the Law.


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The National Weather Service provides the following rules for lightning and storm safety:


Storm and Lightning Rules:


  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

  • Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from tall objects such as towers, fences, telephone poles, and power lines.

  • If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up. Avoid touching any metal.

  • Utility lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.

  • If caught outside:

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. DO NOT lie down.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.

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Natural Peril


Natural peril covers the variety of events that weather or earth movement can create. These can include, but are not limited to:


  • Floods

  • Storms

  • Lightning

  • Tornadoes

  • Earthquakes

  • Rock or mud slides

  • Cold or hot weather extremes


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We are all becoming more acutely aware of the growing trend of law suits being brought against churches and their affiliate ministries. The vast majority of these claims are being based upon “negligence” and/or “gross negligence” in some areas such as; lack of background checks on employees or volunteers, potentially dangerous or hazardous building maintenance issues, lack of proper supervision at events and etc.


Negligence could be defined as a failure to use that degree of care which an ordinary person of reasonable prudence would use under the given circumstances. Negligence may be constituted by acts of either omission or commission, or both.


Gross Negligence is defined as reckless, wanton and willful misconduct, where the standard of due care of a reasonably prudent person has been ignored by such a shockingly wide margin that it reflects an indifference to the natural and probable consequences as to almost amount to an intentional act.


For more information see Block B2 – The Church and the Law.


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Negligent Retention


Negligent retention occurs when a church continues to retain an individual after they have received information indicating the person poses a harm to others. Upon receiving such information, church leaders should investigate the situation for credibility.


Block B2 – The Church and the Law provides more details.


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Negligent Selection


Negligent selection occurs when church leaders do not pursue due diligence in their selection of workers whether paid or volunteer. Due diligence would include:


  • Proper screening

  • Application process

  • Appropriate interview process


For more details see Block B2 – The Church and the Law.


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Negligent Supervision


Churches need to have detailed policies and procedures for providing supervision of all church workers whether paid or volunteer. These policies and procedures should include:


  • 2-person rules

  • Process for parents or guardians picking up children from nurseries or children’s activities

  • Supervision of off site activities

  • Accountability


For more details see Block B2 – The Church and the Law.


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Nursery Safety


Churches need to provide the utmost care in their nurseries. The things that should be considered are:


  • Screening of workers

  • Process for checking in or out children

  • Proper equipment

  • Appropriate toys

  • Regular inspection of all equipment


For more details see Block D1 – Risk Management and the Church.


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Playground Equipment


When placing equipment on the playground, an understanding of use zones will help reduce the risk of injury of children colliding with one another.


  • Slides – The use zone in front of the access and to the sides of the slide extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the equipment.
  • Single-Axis Swings – The use zone should extend to the front and rear of a single-axis swing a minimum distance of twice the height of the pivot point above the surfacing material measured from a point directly beneath the pivot on the supporting structure.
  • Multi-Axis Swings – The use zone should extend in any direction from a point directly beneath the pivot point for a minimum distance of 6 feet and the length of the suspending members.
  • Merry-Go-Rounds – The use zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet beyond the perimeter of the platform. This use zone should never overlap the use zone of any other equipment.
  • Spring Rockers – The use zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet from the “at rest” perimeter of the equipment.

(Handbook for Public Playground Safety, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, pages 6 & 7)


All equipment should be inspected for potential hazards that can be caused by corrosion, rot, insects, weathering, wear and tear, or vandalism.  The ground should also be inspected for broken glass, anthills, and other debris.  A more formal, detailed inspection should also be conducted on a regular basis.


It is recommended to have separate playgrounds with age appropriate equipment. This will reduce the risk of younger children being injured by older children or on equipment that is not appropriate for their age.


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Playground Safety


The Consumer Product Safety Commission stated over 200,000 children are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms from injuries sustained on a playground.  The single biggest problem is falling off equipment onto the ground.  Approximately one-third of playground injuries are fractures.  Other problems include collisions with moving and stationary equipment, and contact with sharp edges, protrusions, pinch points, hot surfaces, and debris left on the ground.  Children also become entangled or entrapped in ropes and opening;  clothing can catch on slides; and equipment can tip over.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety provides safety specifications that are used by communities across the United States. Every church should obtain a copy and use it to evaluate its own playground. A free copy can be downloaded at


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Playground Surfaces


Though many generations survived with playing surfaces of grass, concrete, asphalt, and dirt, they are no longer recommended. New surfaces for playground areas should be shock absorbing. The materials recommended include mulch, shredded tires, gravel, woodchips, or sand.


The depth of a playground’s surface depends on the type of equipment that is to be used. The fall heights of the most popular playground equipment are listed below: 

  • Climbers and Horizontal Ladders – The fall height is the maximum height of the structure.
  • Elevated Platforms including Slide Platforms – The fall height is the height of the platform.
  • Merry-Go-Rounds – The fall height is the height above the ground of any part at the perimeter on which a child may sit or stand.
  • See-Saws – The fall height is the maximum height attainable by any part of the see-saw.
  • Spring Rockers – The fall height is the maximum height about the ground of the seat or designated play surface.
  • Swings – Since children may fall from a swing seat at its maximum attainable angle (assumed to be 90º from the “at rest” position), the fall height of a swing structure is the height of the pivot point where the swing’s suspending elements connect to the supporting structure.

(Handbook for Public Playground Safety, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, page 4)


The following chart gives the proper depths for the playground surfaces. Please note that some surface materials may require “fluffing” when the surface becomes compacted from repeated use.


Text Box: Uncompressed Depth of Materials   Compressed Depth
                                                6 inches       9 inches    12 inches           12 inches
Material                                     Critical Height in feet                                Critical Height
Wood Chips                             7 feet            10 feet        11 feet             10 feet
Double Shredded                    6 feet            10 feet        11 feet               7 feet
     Bark Mulch
Engineered Wood Fibers      6 feet            7 feet          >12 feet              6 feet
Fine Sand                                  5 feet             5 feet          9 feet                  5 feet
Coarse Sand                             5 feet             5 feet          6 feet                  4 feet
Fine gravel                                 6 feet             7 feet          10 feet                6 feet
Medium gravel                           5 feet             5 feet          6 feet                  5 feet
Shredded Tires                         10-12 feet       N/A             N/A                       N/A                  




























Handbook for Public Playground Safety, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, page5)


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“Parents” website recommends the following regarding playpens: 

  • Netting has small weave without any tears. The weave should be so small that not even the baby’s finger could slip through and become entwined.
  • The drop side is up and securely locked. If not, the baby can roll into the pocket created between the mesh and the playpen pad and suffocate. Also, he could catch his fingers in the hinges or crawl or climb out of the playpen if all the sides are not locked up.
  • The rails and padding are in good condition. Do not use a playpen in which the padded rails have rips or tears. Your child could remove and ingest the plastic materials.
  • Never string toys from the playpen. Any dangling string or cord could encourage the child to try to climb out, resulting in a tumble.
  • Never use an accordion-style fence as a play yard. A child can get his head caught in the openings and injure his fingers on hinges.

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Public Domain


Public domain is defined as:


“The term of the copyright protection has expired and anyone is free to use those works in any way.”

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It is not wise to make an assumption that an old copyrighted item is automatically public domain or items listed on the Internet as public domain are just that. There are websites that can help in determining whether items are truly public domain:


For sheet music:


For public domain research:


For hymns:


For sound effects:


For films or videos:


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Recreational Activities


Recreational activities include sports and exercise programs. Churches need to have policies and procedures in place to cover the following:

  • Supervision for the activity

  • Releases for participation

  • Checklists

  • Reporting


For more information see Block D1 – Risk Management and the Church.


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Release Forms


Richard Hammar’s, Pastor, Church & Law – Third Edition, provides the following regarding release forms:


Many churches use “release forms,” which purport to release the church from legal responsibility for injuries inflicted by the negligence of its employees or workers. Besides being of dubious legal value, such forms primarily protect the church’s insurance company. If injuries are caused by the negligence of a church worker, then the liability insurer will pay for such damages up to the policy limits. If the church is not negligent, then it ordinarily will not be assessed any damages. A release form, even if deemed legally valid by a court, would have the effect of excusing the church’s liability insurer from paying damages to a victim of the church’s negligence. Release forms that purport to excuse a church or other organization from liability for injuries to a minor are the most likely to be invalidated by the courts, often on the ground that they violate public policy. However, the courts have been less reluctant to recognize release or “assumption of risk” forms signed by competent adults, but even these forms are viewed with disfavor and some courts will go to great lengths to invalidate them, especially if they seek to relieve an organization of liability for personal injuries as opposed to property damage.


Churches should not allow a minor child to participate in any church activity (such as camping, boating, swimming, hiking, or some sporting events) unless the child’s parents or legal guardians sign a form that (1) consents to their child participating in the specified activity; (2) certifies that the child is able to participate in the event (e.g., if the activity involves boating or swimming, the parents or guardians should certify that the child is able to swim); (3) lists any allergies or medical conditions that may be relevant to a physician in the event of an emergency; (4) lists any activities that the parents or guardians do not want the child to engage in; and (5) authorizes a designated individual to make emergency medical decisions for their child in the event that they cannot be reached. Ideally, the form should be signed by both parents or guardians (if there are two), and the signatures should be notarized. If only one parent or guardian signs, or the signatures are not notarized, the legal effectiveness of the form is diminished. Having persons sign as witnesses to a parent’s signature is not as good as a notary’s acknowledgment, but it is better than a signature without a witness. The form should require the parent or guardian to inform the church immediately of any change in the information presented, and it should state that it is valid until revoked by the person who signed it. The parent or guardian should sign both in his or her own capacity as parent or guardian, and in a representative capacity on behalf of the minor child.

(pages 80 & 81)


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Safety, accident


See Accident Safety


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Safety, fire


See Fire Safety


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Safety, heat


See Heat Safety


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Safety natural peril


See Natural Peril


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Safety, nursery


See Nursery Safety


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Safety, playground


See Playground Safety


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Safety, recreational activities


See Recreational Activities


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Safety, transportation


See Transportation Safety


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Safety, Water


See Water Safety


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As skateboarding continues to grow in popularity, many communities are building skating parks. Take the following into consideration when planning skateboarding events:


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following suggestions for safe skate-boarding:

  • Never ride in the street.

  • Don't take chances:

  • Complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially designed area
  • Only one person per skateboard
  • Never hitch a ride from a car, bus, truck, bicycle, etc.
  • Learning how to fall in case of an accident may help reduce your chances of being seriously injured.

  • If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so that you will not have so far to fall.
  • In a fall, try to land on the fleshy parts of your body.
  • If you fall, try to roll rather than absorb the force with your arms.
  • Even though it may be difficult, during a fall try to relax your body, rather than stiffen.



Always make sure participants are wearing the appropriate safety gear.


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When providing for soccer activities consider the following: 

  • Clear field of any debris.
  • Check field for holes or uneven ground.
  • Field should not be close to road without fencing.
  • Provide referees to reduce rough play.
  • Develop teams based on age and/or ability.
  • Make sure players are wearing proper safety equipment and shoes.
  • Check goals for stability.

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See Baseball


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See Lightning


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Dr. Spock’s website recommends the following regarding strollers:


If nursery workers decide to take children out for a stroll on pretty days, the following tips about strollers should be considered:


  • Brakes. If possible, use a stroller with some form of brakes, and use them when you stop for more than just a moment.

  • Seatbelts. You may think that they are only for infants or when you're strolling quickly, but using seatbelts actually prevents many types of injuries. Get in the habit of always buckling up the child.

  • Stability. Use a model that is well designed and sturdy so it's not prone to tipping over. Lightweight umbrella strollers are by their very nature less sturdy than standard strollers, but you'll still find that some models are more stable than others. One simple test: Try hanging something (such as a purse) on the back of the stroller and see which ones tip over most easily.

  • Sitting properly. Even the best-designed stroller can be put to the test by a child who decides to face backwards or lean over the sides. Not sitting properly is an accident waiting to happen.

  • Toting extra items. Even if your child is sitting properly in his seat, some strollers are still relatively easy to tip over backwards if you hang anything on the back. Instead, look for under-the-seat baskets to store extra items such as a purse, toys, snacks, shopping bag, or jacket.

  • Parking lots. Never leave a child in the stroller behind a parked car. The reason is obvious if you stop to think about it.

  • Collapsible strollers. Make sure that your stroller is fully locked or correctly snapped into the open position before putting your child in it.

  • Stopping on a hill. Don't rest with the wheels pointing downhill and don't forget to set your brakes, even if you're just stopping for a moment!

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The National Weather Service recommends the following tornado rules:


  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.

  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

  • Stay away from windows.

  • Get out of automobiles.

  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately for safe shelter.

  • If caught outside or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.

  • Be aware of flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter.

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Transportation Safety


Churches that have vehicles such as vans or buses to transport the various groups of their congregation to activities should keep the following in mind:


  • Regularly inspect the vehicle for:

  • Tire pressure
  • Proper fluid levels
  • Mirrors are operational
  • Whether headlights, taillights, and turn signals are operating properly
  • Trash in the vehicle
  • Whether all seat belts are operating properly
  • Any operational issues that would keep the vehicle from being deemed safe
  • Only allow drivers that have valid driver’s licenses and have passed background checks to operate the vehicles. Drivers should be screened for moving violations as well as sexual misconduct.

  • Keep a log of each time the vehicle was in use. The log should include: the name of the driver, a completed safety checklist before vehicle was used, the destination, the beginning and ending odometer readings, the date(s) the vehicle was use, and any problems that may have arisen on the trip.

  • Provide yearly training for all drivers of all vehicles.


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See Forms of Violence


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Water Safety


Text Box: Adults must closely supervise water and swimming activities.  One adult should be designated to be the “watcher.”  Youth leaders should learn CPR.  Emergency equipment, including a telephone, should be available by the pool.  Supervisors should know how to shut off the pump in an emergency.
Cobble, Risk Management Handbook for Church and Schools, p. 100












For more information see Block D1 – Risk Management and the Church.


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Works for Hire


It is not uncommon for ministers to create works of music or written word while they are working at a church. A great misunderstanding comes as to who truly owns that material. The copyright law assigns the ownership to the church since it was done on church time, church property, and possibly with church personnel.


For more information see Block D3 – Copyright Law.


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 © 2010 ABC's of Church Management, Inc.




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