Hazardous substances in churches

29 July 2022

Occasionally, some products or substances you may come across at your church premises can potentially be hazardous to health. Examples include bleach, weed killers, insecticides, petrol, dusts and asbestos.

Whilst some substances can be harmful, where they are used properly they almost never are.

Legal requirements

If you are an employer you will need to:

  • complete, record and revise (where necessary) a specific risk assessment to identify what precautions are needed
  • take action to eliminate hazardous substances altogether where this is possible
  • implement suitable precautions where exposure to hazardous substances cannot be eliminated
  • make sure that these precautions are taken and are properly maintained, with some needing to be examined and tested at specified intervals
  • provide information and training to any employees and volunteers on what they need to do.
Preventing danger from some hazardous substances is covered under other specific health and safety law, where you may have responsibilities even if you are not an employer. A good example of this, is asbestos and we have further information available on this.

Precautions you can take

Typical precautions include:

  • Using a safer product or substance instead of a more harmful one
  • Only storing minimum quantities of the products or substances
  • Storing substances securely, including bleach and toilet cleaners often left by toilets
  • Storing flammable substances correctly in a flame-retardant cabinet or container, well away from ignition sources
  • Disposing of chemicals no longer in use, or that you cannot identify safely.  When disposing of hazardous substances, you may have to meet a number of legal obligations which if not adhered to can result in a fine. You can obtain more information on how to do this properly from your local Council
  • Ensuring only proprietary diesel and petrol containers are used with locking caps and spouts
  • When handling fuels, doing this in well ventilated areas with open windows and doors wherever  possible
  • Using bird roosting deterrents, such as bird spikes and porcupine wire to prevent larger birds roosting
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves etc.*

*Note: this list is not exhaustive

Want to know more?

For more information about hazardous substances, why not download our guide.