Risk Assessment extended

Risk Assessment Guidance where the bells have not been rung for an extended period. #

The following was previously published as a .pdf file on the CCCBR website.

Introduction #

These notes offer advice about issues to consider in a health and safety risk assessment of the bells and tower prior to the bells being rung after an extended period (several months or more) during which they have not been rung. This could concern a single bell, manual chimes or change ringing bells. The notes were first compiled to aid ringers to return to towers to ring bells when restrictions due to Covid-19 were eased, but are applicable after other periods of non-use for whatever reason. The notes may assist the tower authority and bell ringers; they do not intend to provide comprehensive information about health and safety or risk assessments generally.

Although this document may look long, the time taken to make the checks will not be time-consuming if the bells and associated installation were maintained in good condition and rung frequently (a few times a month) until ringing stopped. The longer ago that ringing was stopped and any maintenance was done, then the more thorough the checks required. A few key items may have occurred regardless of when the bells were last rung.

A risk assessment of the tower and bells will form part of the risk assessment for the whole building.

  • The risk assessment will be completed by the Responsible Person appointed by the tower authority and it is advised that one or more experienced ringers assist with this.
  • The whole risk assessment should be recorded, dated and reported to the tower authority.
  • Remedial work should be undertaken by competent people.
  • Ringers are advised to check that the actions are completed before ringing commences.

Belfry Upkeep may be used as an aide memoire for undertaking basic maintenance checks.

Note that any work to bells, other than what is deemed to be minor maintenance should be done with the correct permissions and faculties in place, and in accordance with all relevant health and safety policies. Advice on faculties is available within Belfry Upkeep. Few towers were designed or built to comply with current legislation and many are extremely historic and vulnerable structures.

Ringers may be in buildings at times when the building is otherwise unoccupied, and also in parts of the building that are separate and less accessible from the rest of the building.

Each building and tower has to considered carefully and have in place specific procedures and policies that are suitable.

Most towers with rings of bells are within the jurisdiction of the Church of England. These notes focus on these but the issues are likely to apply to bells in towers owned by other organisations, in churches of other denominations, and also churches elsewhere in the world. Local legislation and circumstances should always be taken into account.

Responsibilty for Safety #

It is important to note that the responsibility for health and safety and risk assessment rests with the tower authority. It is best that one or more experienced ringers work together with the tower authority to prepare the risk assessment and that it is dated. Normally, in a church, the Incumbent should have appointed a Responsible Person for health and safety matters. Ringers need to use their experience and knowledge of ringing and bell installations to assist the tower authority in carrying out and implementing risk assessments within the tower.

Issues to Consider #

This document is in two parts:

  • The first part covers some issues that should be considered when carrying out a risk assessment prior to conducting checks of the conditions of the bells and their installation in a tower after period of non-use (typically 3 months or more). This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor is it suitable or relevant for every tower; it is intended as a guide for those involved to consider the hazards that may be present in their own tower.
  • The second part is a brief list of things that should be checked as part of a pre-ringing inspection. Again, it is not an exhaustive list but covers the main points. Each installation may have its own idiosyncrasies that require specific consideration and attention.

The tower authority may have its own Risk assessment recording sheets; a tabular format is recommended.


Disclaimer #

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, neither contributors nor the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any activities undertaken based on the information provided.

Version 1.1, March 2023

© 2023 Central Council of Church Bell Ringers