Getting your church ready for Christmas

05 December 2018

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but with the special events and services, extra visitors and festive decorations in your church, it can mean a little extra planning in order to keep everyone safe.

Candle in a church

Decorating your church

Christmas lights

Christmas lights can look lovely in your church, but when put up in haste they can on occasion cause accidents. Simple steps can help you make sure they are safe. You should take care when putting up the lights to ensure they are strung up securely and check that power leads are not a trip hazard. You should also regularly examine the lights, and check they are safe. Read more about electrical safety.  
 
Putting up Christmas lights can also often mean working at height. Make sure you stay safe by reading our working at height guidance.

Christmas tree

A wonderful addition to any Christmas scene, Christmas trees can bring their own hazards. The best way to avoid these hazards is to carefully plan the best place to put up the tree. 
 
As they are highly combustible, Christmas trees should be placed away from any candles and other flammable items. You should also make sure that the tree doesn’t impede any exit routes from the building, this should be considered as part of your fire risk assessment. Trees can also pose a threat of falling, so be sure to secure your tree appropriately.

Candles

From lighting the advent candles, to candle-lit carol services, candles are a very important part of worship at this time of year. However, they can also be the cause of major fires, so make sure you take precautions with candles in your church. Find out more about using candles safely.

Review the potential fire risk

Extra lights, candles and Christmas trees can do wonders in making your church look wonderfully festive, but can also increase the risk of fire. We recommend reviewing your fire risk assessment ahead of the festive season, as well as making sure to follow our advice on Christmas lights, candles and trees. 

Find out more about fire safety considerations and download our fire risk assessment form. 

Christmas events

At Christmas, many churches hold special services, events and concerts. Most of the time, such activities represent little or no additional risk. However, larger events can present some significant risks, so it is a good idea to consider any additional precautions you might need to take to ensure people remain safe. 
 
You should start by considering the type of event, the number of attendees, and whether you have the plans in place to manage the event. Find out more about planning events and read tips from our experts.  

Christmas tree festivals 

Many churches hold Christmas tree festivals in the run up to Christmas, most of these don’t present much of a risk, however there are some special considerations you should make. 
 
  • When planning the festival make sure you have room for the trees to be spaced at least their own diameter apart 
  • Check the electric lights, as you would for your church, and make sure the pathways are clear of wires
  • Make sure that the trees are kept out of public reach; you may want to use temporary barriers. 

Live animals at Christmas

Live nativities are a wonderful way to celebrate the story of Christmas and engage children and the local community, but special care should be taken when planning events involving animals.
 
Any animals involved in church events remain the responsibility of their owner, so the first things you should check is that the owner has public liability insurance. It is best practice to see a copy of their public liability cover for your records.
 
You should then consider the following:
 
  • Make sure the owner is confident that the animals will be well behaved in an unfamiliar environment
  • Clean up any mess made by the animals as soon as it happens – while the animals are the owner’s responsibility any mess they make could still end up causing injury if left on the floor
  • Take extra care if you plan to have anyone ride the animals. Make sure that the owner is confident that the animals will be happy, and that they are supervised at all times.  

Keeping visitors safe from slip and trip hazards 

Slips and trips are the most common causes of injury in churches. Ice and snow can make these accidents more likely, so make sure you keep footpaths and steps safe during the winter:

  • Plan ahead
    If bad weather is forecast make sure to grit any paths you will need ahead of time.
  • Keep paths clear
    If paths you need to use are snowy or icy, remove snow while it is fresh and easiest to move, and use salt or grit to melt ice and impacted snow.  This stops it refreezing. Do not use water as this can refreeze possibly causing black ice. 
The gov.uk website has more information on clearing snow and ice.