News and views

Risk Assessment for Opening Church Buildings to the Public


Version Control

Issue Date

Version Number

Issued by

22nd May 2020


The House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group

8th June 2020


The House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group

12th June 2020


The House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group

1st July 2020


The House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group



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 for Wednesday Holy Communion



St Leonard’s

Assessor’s name:

Anne Peck


Date completed:



Review date:





Area of Focus

Controls required

Additional information

Action by whom?

Completed – date and name

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.

This should not pose an issue as neighbours are minimal.



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


Kate and Anne to update website by 02.08.20

Completed by Kate 02.08.20

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

This should not be an issue for Wednesday communion.




Discussion with PCC

Discussion held on 19.07.20

Jenny and Anne to inform PCC of decision by 02.08.20

Email PCC with risk assessment 02.08.20

Preparation of the Church for access by members of the public for worship



Measures in place during worship

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

Church has been open for private prayer during June and July. All pre-opening checks completed on 13.06.20



One point of entry to the church building clearly identified.

  • Entry by the south door; exit by the north door.
  • Both doors to be propped open.
  • All tables etc. to be cleared from north door exit and placed in the back of the church as necessary
  • Clear signage available.

Jenny and Anne to check all signage remains fit for purpose on 02.08.20

Additional signage in place 02.08.20

All visitors will be asked to sanitise their hands, on arrival and on departure.

Appropriate hand sanitiser will be needed.

Jenny and Anne to check sufficient sanitiser is available on 02.08.20

Sufficient stock available as of 02.08.20

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

Chairs will be placed on the grass 2m apart.

Kate to put out chairs each Wednesday morning


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

North and south doors to be left open.

See above


Remove Bibles/literature/hymn books/leaflets

All removed as part of preparation for open church; orders of service will be available on line. Paper copies will be available in church and then quarantined (in the vestry) until the next week.

Place a basket by the door for congregation to place orders of service on exit.

Baskets in place as of 02.08.20

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

All pew cushions/kneelers to be removed to the parish room.

Anne on 02.08.20

All pew cushions in Parish Room as of 02.08.20

Remove or isolate children’s resources and play areas

Parish room to be out of bounds.



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

Congregation to sit 2 metres apart (excluding family groups).

Kate to demarcate spaces using natural objects at the start of each service


Clearly mark out flow of movement for people receiving communion

Kate, Jenny and Anne to consider how congregation will move to receive communion

Review on 02.08.20

Kate will come to the congregation. Leave pews empty to allow for this where necessary.

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

Toilet will not be in use



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

New signs have been purchased.

Put in place on 02.08.20

Signage in place 02.08.20

Congregation will be strongly encouraged to wear face masks.

Provide face masks where requested

Jenny and Anne to check supply on 02.08.20

Signage in place on 02.08.20 with sufficient stock.

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


Jenny and Anne to check on 02.08.20

In place on 02.08.20

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


Kate, Jenny and Anne to discuss further on 02.08.20

Visitors to services asked to provide names and one contact number. Information held for 21 days in locked cabinet in locked vestry.

Specific risk assessment for receiving Holy Communion

There will be no sharing of the Peace.

Kate will not speak over the ‘consumables’.

Congregation will receive communion in one kind and through an individual wafer.


All advice and guidance contained within the document * at the end of this risk assessment will be adhered to.



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

Cleaning the church after known exposure to someone with Coronavirus symptoms

Masks and gloves should be available for use when cleaning.

Places where congregation have sat will need to be wiped before church opens for private prayer.

Anne to speak to Gilly about reactivating the cleaning rota.

Email sent 26.07.20


Check PCC/Chapter liability insurance is up to date.

Confirmed 13.06.20



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

All cleaning waste to be double bagged, removed from the church and placed in outside bins.

See the advice note on keeping church buildings clean for appropriate cleaning materials and methods.

All materials available in church with full instructions.



Cleaning the church after known exposure to someone with Coronavirus symptoms

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

See the advice note on keeping church buildings clean.



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.



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.