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Risk Assessment for Opening Church Buildings to the Public V5



Issue Date

Version Number

Issued by

6th August 2020


The House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group

This update includes risk factors around the requirement to wear face coverings in places of worship from 8th August.

Churches and cathedrals have been legally permitted to open for purposes of individual private prayer from 13th June. House of Bishops guidance provided for churches to open for funerals from 15th June. Public worship, with measures in place for social distancing, are allowed from 4th July. Other activities, except for a few still prohibited by law, may also take place in churches, subject to the government guidance in place for the relevant sector.

The government guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic requires a COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out for every building and site open to the public. This document provides a template risk assessment, with links to the relevant advice notes. It relates to opening up church and cathedral buildings to clergy and members of the public entering for any permitted purposes. As well as offering guidance on best-practice, it is also intended to help parishes make a decision on whether to open for any or all of these purposes or not, based on their local circumstances, resources and context. You should read the advice on re-opening buildings and the guidance on public worship before completing this assessment. Both are available on the Church of England Coronavirus pages.

Future versions of this document will be produced when there is any substantive change to the guidance on the safe use of places of worship.

A separate risk assessment relating to contractors and construction workers is available on the Church of England Coronavirus pages.

Carrying out a risk assessment

  1. Agree what activities you are planning for:
    • Private prayer (clergy only)
    • Livestreaming services (clergy only)
    • Private prayer (general public)
    • Public worship
    • Rites of passage services
    • Opening for visitors and tourists
  1. Consider the hazards:
    • Transmission of COVID-19
    • Hazards arising from the temporary closure of the church
    • Hazards arising from now using the church in a different way

Read the guidance and think about how it relates specifically to your church. What constraints are there? Consider how people will arrive at the church, including if they will need to wait or queue outside; how people will enter and leave the church; circulation inside: from the entrance to the worship space and out again; circulation within the worship space; also access to other areas including the toilet(s).

  1. Consider who might be harmed and how? Read the guidance and think about how the activities you are planning will affect different groups of people. The risks are not different for larger churches so long as they are properly managed, but having more people coming through your building makes the possible impact – for example of someone with COVID-19 coming into contact with others – higher than in smaller venues with fewer people. Consider your particular circumstances and adapt the checklist below as appropriate.
  1. Using the risk assessment checklist below as a template:
    • add in mitigations for any risks that are particular to your circumstances that may not be on the list;
    • record what you need to do for each activity to go ahead safely;
    • consider any equipment you need and any temporary changes you might need to make to the church;
    • check back against your list of activities to confirm which ones can go ahead and when.

Risk assessment template


St Clement Spotland

Assessor’s name:

Karen Smeeton

Date completed:


Date Revised:


Review date:


(unless required beforehand)

Area of Focus

Controls required

Additional information

Action by whom?

Completed – date and name

Access to church buildings for clergy for purposes of private prayer and/or livestreaming


General advice on accessing church buildings can be found here.

One point of entry to the church building clearly identified

If local lockdown then stream services from SGO as closer to vicarage.

Services streamed if cameraman available.

Camera located in pew near front on Epistle side.



A suitable lone working policy has been consulted if relevant.

An example can be found here.



Buildings have been aired before use.

Aired for 1 hour before entry



Check for animal waste and general cleanliness.




Ensure water systems are flushed through before use.


See Government Guidance for organisations on supplying safe water supplies

Flushed through 20 minutes



Switch on and check electrical and heating systems if needed. Commission system checks as necessary.

Systems running through lockdown. No reactivation necessary



Holy water stoups and the font are empty.

Font kept empty. No stoops



Ensure safe use of equipment needed for livestreaming: avoid exceeding safe load on sockets, cables/tripod causing trip hazard

CD,player plugged into 1 socket. Music operated by KS so no infection risk to others. Music before service and during administration. ‘Phone used as camera. Tripod to side in pews – taped off




Deciding whether to open to the public

Discuss with nearby venues and businesses to ensure that the timing and practical arrangements for using the church are compatible.

Own carpark



Update your website, A Church Near You, and any relevant social media.

If risk assessment agreed by PCC, update Facebook/ACNY 24/08/20

Website when possible




Consider if a booking system is needed, whether for general access or for specific events/services

Considered. Thought unlikely able to run this without disadvantaging many members of the congregation.



Include details on requirements such as bringing a face covering in communications.

Read the CofE guide on face coverings and produce signage or other relevant materials to indicate compliance with the law requiring these for all except those exempt.

Email sent out to all with email address and letter to those without informing of need for face mask.

Facemasks procured so available for those who forget.

Sign printed.

Exemption for those leading worship (except when administering communion/within 2m noted)






If opening to tourists consider applying for the Visit Britain ‘Good to Go’ standard mark

Apply here.



Preparation of the Church for access by members of the public for any permitted purposes, including worship and tourism

Confirm that all steps (above) for access by clergy have been carried out before anyone else accesses the building.



Done 09/06/20 confirmed for this risk assessment 18/08/20

Review CofE guide on cleaning church buildings. Complete the ‘cleaning’ section of this risk assessment (below).

Advice on cleaning church buildings can be found here.


Hall deep cleaned 26/07/20

Church tidied and cleaned – finished 22/08/20

Choose one point of entry into the church to manage flow of people and indicate this with notices, keeping emergency exits available at all times. Where possible use a different exit.

Notices printed and laminated indicating need to use hand gel and keep distance.

One point of entry. Requested early arrival so entry can be staggered. Same point of exit but exit staggered – leave immediately after received communion until further notice. Priest goes to vestry after service until building otherwise empty and can lock up.



Notices completed 18/08/20

KH to maintain orderly entry.

Make any temporary arrangements for people to wait or queue outside the building (taking into account any consequential risks arising from people gathering outside).

Tape/chalk marks on steps and in car park.



Where possible, doors and windows should be opened temporarily to improve ventilation.

Double doors kept open during worship


Every Sunday worship

Remove Bibles/literature/hymn books/leaflets


Service booklets and hymn books taped off.


Checked 22/08/20

Cordon off or remove from public access any devotional objects or items (if they are liable to be touched or closely breathed on)

No devotional items

Votive candle stand emptied



Consider if pew cushions/kneelers need to be removed as per government guidance

Hassocks and cushions all removed.




Remove or isolate children’s resources and play areas

Children’s toys removed to vestry.


Checked 22/08/20

Walk through the church to plan for physical distancing in seats, aisles, at the altar rail, including safe flow of visitors. Remember 2m in all directions from each person (or 1m with risk mitigation if absolutely necessary).  

Pews taped off, taped markers on floor to ensure distance maintained. Aisle taped on to floor to ensure maximum distance kept when receiving communion. Facing forwards. Seated throughout service, leave immediately after receiving communion, wearing of facemasks tracks govt/CofE advice

Altar rail not in use. Standing communion station only.


Completed 22/07/20

Clearly mark out seating areas including exclusion zones to maintain distancing.




Clearly mark out flow of movement for people entering and leaving the building to maintain physical distancing requirements.

Aisle marked with tape and tape arrows in place.



Limit access to places were the public does not need go, maybe with a temporary cordon in needed.

Public not to move into quire, but cannot tape off as access for priest to come down from vestry. No entry signs in place



Determine placement of hand sanitisers available for visitors to use.

Hand sanitiser in toilets, at entrance/exit, near communion point, and at altar



Determine if temporary changes are needed to the building to facilitate social distancing

Consult advice on gaining temporary permissions.

N/A – tape used instead


Put up notices to remind visitors about important safe practices e.g. no physical contact, practice hand washing etc.

Printed 18/08/20



Ensure high-risk surfaces and touch points have been wiped with appropriate sanitiser spray or disposable wipes

Advice on cleaning church buildings can be found here.


Church cleaned according to advice on cleaning church buildings document.



Check that handwashing facilities have adequate soap provision and paper towels, and a bin for the paper towels.

Register with Parish Buying for procurement options.

Paper towels and soap in toilets


Checked 22/08/20

Where there are toilet facilities, ensure an adequate supply of soap and disposable hand towels, and a bin for towels, are available.

Register with Parish Buying for procurement options.


Checked 22/08/20

Ensure all waste receptacles have disposable liners (e.g. polythene bin bags) to reduce the risk to those responsible for removing them.

Bin bags in place.



If possible, provide safe means for worshippers and visitors to record their name and contact details; retain each day’s record for 21 days

Warden/Sidespeople to distribute track and trace form at door (wearing gloves) Warden to establish list of sidespeople to assist in future. Warden and Deputy to organize disposal of these data after 21 days



+D’s letter allowing volunteers over 70 to ‘undertake activities within church subject to agreement of PCC/Incumbent’

Letter also allows over 70s to lead public worship.

Risk Assessment circulated to PCC

EIG advice on Diocesan website noted.

PCC confirmed Risk Assessment/ Denied confirmation of Risk Assessment.

Over 70s wishing to lead public worship asked to confirm in writing not in Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Group









If applicable


Ad Hoc

Give due notice of the resumption of use of the building to neighbours, congregation and wider community, ensuring that visitors and worshippers will know what to expect when they come.

Congregation received protocol (same as SGO – other than location. Recirculated) emailed or paper communication through post for those not on email


Cleaning the church before and after general use (no known exposure to anyone with Coronavirus symptoms)


Advice on cleaning church buildings can be found here.

If the church building has been closed for 72 hours between periods of being open then there is no need for extra cleaning to remove the virus from surfaces.

Building cleaned before public worship resumes.

SW using hall but not church. Hall ‘passed through’ but not used by congregation except two tables for sidespeople – wiped after SW by SW and before church by sidespeople




If 72-hour closure is not possible then check all cleaners are not in extremely vulnerable group or self-isolating.


Set up a cleaning rota to cover your opening arrangements.


All cleaners provided with gloves (ideally disposable).

Register with Parish Buying for procurement options.

Gloves procured


Suitable cleaning materials provided, depending on materials and if historic surfaces are to be cleaned.

Register with Parish Buying for procurement options.


Confirm person responsible for removing potentially contaminated waste (e.g. hand towels) from the site.

Last action for Warden or nominated sidesperson before leaving building

KH/CH to organize rota


Confirm the frequency for removing potentially contaminated waste (e.g. hand towels) from the site – suggested daily removal.

Last action for Warden or nominated sidesperson before leaving building


Weekly (after building in use)

Cleaning the church after known exposure to someone with Coronavirus symptoms

If possible close the church building for 72 hours with no access permitted.

If exposure occurs, revert to streaming from vicarage if necessary.

If possible building cleaned per normal advice and after 72 hrs worship can resume.



If 72-hour closure is not possible then follow Public Health England guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.

Public Health England guidance available here.

Follow action card issued by govt for places of worship where known case of virus occurs – including if contacted by track and trace.


If the building has been quarantined for 72 hours, then carry out cleaning as per the normal advice on cleaning.

Advice on cleaning church buildings can be found here.


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