Parish Priests frequently work alone in a Church building or out in the community. In the current pandemic environment, priests must also manage social distancing while carrying out many tasks by themselves. Working alone may present a higher level of risk for Parish priests where personal safety is concerned.
Dioceses, Parishes and Parish priests have WHS legal obligations to work together to mitigate the risks when working remotely or carrying out tasks in isolation.
There are physical safety risks when working alone. Use of maintenance equipment such as ladders and the act of lifting heavy objects may prove difficult and even harmful for one person working alone. It's important to assess whether maintenance tasks can be done safely
Parishes and Dioceses need to consider security risks from the public in the form of burglary and/or other aggression and violence that could result during vandalism attacks on Churches. While incidents of assault are rare, physical or verbal attacks can have a serious physical and psychologically traumatic effect for victims.
Security risks of this nature are significantly increased for Priests who are working alone for their Parish:
After dark or early in the morning
In the community, particularly where people are emotionally or mentally stressed
With people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
When handling valuables or cash
Identify potentially risky situations that require Parish priests to work alone (in a church, locking up after an event, or visiting an unwell parishioner in their community or hospital, for example)
Determine if precautions in place are adequate and if additional safety measures are required
Priests should check their working arrangements are safely planned even if they have had no past experience of safety incidents
When working alone or remotely for the Parish, inform peers of your arrangements and schedule.
Ensure mobile phones are carried at all times, and if available request the use of duress alarms to expedite access to emergency assistance for individuals who may need it
Dioceses should maintain regular communication with their Parish Priests, and record it through a communications plan
Implement a system for maintaining tools of trade (vehicles, for example) for Parish Priests, and ensure the system is audited regularly
Ensure that work environment and facilities are maintained through inspections, and in accordance with standards that adhere to the Diocese's health and safety policy
Maintain adequate supply of personal protective equipment, and audit and restock supplies on a regular basis as needed
Support Parish Priests with additional resources if they need (handbooks, first aid supplies, and information on reporting incidents and hazards)
Insist on safe hygiene practice, and health checks for anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, especially fever and cough
Safeguarding the Church community is one of the many roles that Parish priests fulfil each day in their work practices.
CCI supports Parishes and Dioceses in their mission with a range of risk support resources that are updated regularly, and with articles on risk topics that are discussed by industry thought leaders.
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