By Brad Shrum
An important but often overlooked safety issue in churches revolves around baptisms and baptistery safety.
Often this frequent and important church event is overlooked from a hazard and safety concern. There have been several instances of injuries and even fatalities that simple loss control issues and awareness could have prevented. This blog post will focus on electrical safety, slips and falls, and water damage around a church’s baptistery.
According to the United States Department of Labor, approximately five percent of workplace deaths involve electricity. Since human skin acts as a conductor when wet or moist, anyone working with or around electricity in a damp environment should always exercise extreme caution. For that reason, only cordless, battery-powered microphones should be used around baptisteries. If cordless microphones are not an alternative for your church, consider these safeguards:
Suspend the microphone from the ceiling above the baptistery.
All electrical equipment surrounding a baptistery should be plugged into a GFCI outlet. A GFCI outlet is an electrical device designed to detect ground faults, an unintentional path from an electrical source to the ground. It will sense when an electrical current is “leaking” and turn off the power flowing into that path. Be sure to have a certified electrician install the GFCI and check that it is working properly.
Baptismal water heaters should be installed by a licensed electrician and must be properly grounded. A periodic inspection of the water heater and its grounding by a licensed electrician is recommended.
This photo illustrates a corded microphone installed in the baptistery. The risk of electrocution is present for anyone in the baptistery who could contact the microphone. The microphone in this photo should be relocated and suspended from the ceiling or replaced with a cordless microphone.
Slips and Falls
The area surrounding a baptistery will more than likely be wet, especially after a baptism, which could result in someone slipping and falling. Individuals being baptized also can slip and fall when entering and exiting the tank or from slipping on the floor of the tank itself. In addition, falls into the baptistery even when it is not in use happen with some regularity. Choir members, actors, or others involved in stage or choir productions can be at risk for falling into uncovered baptisteries, especially those located toward the rear of the stage.
Several safeguards should be taken to prevent a slip or fall, including the following:
Adding no-slip adhesive on the stairs leading into the baptistery;
Using handrails that extend just beyond the stairs so people can enter and exit the baptistery safely;
Having carpet or other no-slip floor covering installed around the baptistery;
Using signs or cones to warn people that the area is wet;
Keeping the area around the baptistery well-lit; and
Making sure to cover the baptistery when it is not in use.
This baptistery is a good example of providing a carpeted surface around the tank to reduce slips and falls as individuals enter and exit the tank. However, this tank still poses a slip and fall hazard as there are no handrails for the steps leading into the baptistery. The lack of handrails will significantly increase the likelihood of a fall.
This baptistery is raised above the floor and would pose some of the same hazards as when entering and exiting a household bath tub. Balance will be an issue as individuals would periodically have to place their weight on one leg when entering or exiting the tank. Slips and falls could be reduced by applying a non-slip surface to the bottom of the tank, as well as placing carpet or a non-slip floor mat outside the tank. An additional measure that could be taken is to provide grab bars to assist with getting out of the tank.
When filled, baptistery tanks can contain several hundred gallons of water. If overfilling or leaking of the baptistery tank occurs, water damage can result. Prevent water damage from occurring by:
Always having someone monitor the baptistery when it is being filled.
Inspect all water lines and connections for possible leaks, including fill lines and drain lines.
Once the tank is filled, monitor the water level closely. If you notice a drop in the water level, this is a good indicator that the tank is leaking and the water is going somewhere.
Having an overfill prevention pipe installed. Make sure the pipe remains clear.
Baptismal safety is a growing area of concern among insurance carriers and church congregations alike. Identifying, managing, and correcting potential hazards associated with those addressed here will create the type of inspirational event and environment that fosters obedience in the faithful and unity within the church pastoral staff and parishioners. For further information, please contact me at (800) 832-4689 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
These tips about Baptistery Safety are from the GuideOne SafeChurch risk management program, an exclusive benefit for GuideOne church customers. Is your church insured with GuideOne? As a GuideOne policyholder, you can join SafeChurch.com today and access other safety resources.
Source: © 2010 GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC
Attention Kansas City Area Churches:
Are you a member of your congregation’s team that is responsible for choosing insurance for your church? I would love to help you. Contact me direct at 913-754-3823 or email@example.com. I am located in our Overland Park, KS office location and would be happy to meet at your congregation.
Goose hunter, father of two sons, and insurance agent!
Brad has worked at MAX for the past 17 years and has over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry doing underwriting, field management work, and sales. Outside of the office, Brad is an ordained Southern Baptist Deacon and a Sunday School teacher of 30 years. In addition, Brad is a long-time Vacation Bible School teacher and has an ongoing 20+ year Nursing Home Ministry. Since he was a young teenager, Brad has been an avid goose hunter, traveling across North America while pursuing this noble bird and enjoying the outdoor world.