When Alan Rogers noticed approaching storm clouds from atop scaffolding he was helping to assemble for a Church stake activity, he immediately thought of potential lightning danger.
“As a precaution, I quickly advised everyone to stop working and get to a safe location,” he said.
His safety awareness came in part from an award-winning lightning video project he worked on several years ago as a senior safety manager for Church Risk Management. Although Rogers never did see lightning that day, he knew continuing working out in the open during a storm wasn’t worth the risk of potential harm to those who were serving.
He also knew how serious The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes keeping people safe and healthy during Church activities. “Safety has always been a high priority for the Church,” he said.
He referred to the “Safety, Health, and Environmental Manual” produced by Church Risk Management that states: “The Church desires to protect the safety and health of its employees, volunteers, missionaries and others who visit and use Church facilities and services. Protecting them is always one of its highest priorities.”
The First Presidency reiterated the high priority the Church gives to safety in a letter sent to stake and ward leaders April 30. The letter directs leaders to “use good judgment” in approving well-planned activities that “build faith in Jesus Christ” and follow general safety guidelines (which are enclosed in the letter and published on safety.churchofjesuschrist.org).
“Stake, ward and youth councils should discuss guidelines and practices that ensure the safety of all participants and protect the Church and its volunteers,” the letter states.
“Meaningful, fun and safe activities begin with careful planning,” the accompanying guidelines state. The guidelines are to be used for planning all Church activities, especially those that include children, youth and young adults.
A new resource, “Key Principles for Safe Activities,” helps leaders quickly incorporate basic safety guidelines into their planning.
“Careful planning is key to having safe activities,” said Thomas Smith, global safety manager for the Church. “Because without proper planning, that’s when problems happen.”
He encourages activity planners and participants to pause before engaging in an activity and have what he calls a “safety moment” — carefully thinking through what could possibly happen and what they can do to prepare for or avoid potential risks. “Sometimes that means choosing a less dangerous alternative,” Smith said.
“Youth, parent and leader involvement in the planning process is vital to the success of safe activities,” added Rogers.
He noted that in Church activity programs for youth, the youth take the lead in planning activities. But leaders and parents still need to be involved to review and advise during this process. “Youth may not always have a full understanding of the potential risks for an activity,” he said. “Some activities are better held as a group of families and friends, not as a class or quorum activity.”
Other safety guidelines include having at least two leaders present at all interactions, being alert for signs of abuse or neglect, considering fitness levels and individual medical risk factors and allergies, and providing parents with enough information about what an activity will entail so they can make decisions about their child’s participation.
Additional principles, guidelines, policies and training resources are provided in “Activities,” chapter 20 of the “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and on the Church Safety and Health website at safety.churchofjesuschrist.org.
The Church’s Safety and Health Website
First launched in 2014 and available in 10 languages, the website safety.churchofjesuschrist.org includes safety training and video resources, reporting procedures, permission and other forms, activity-related fact sheets, and other educational programs and information addressing safety and health risks — all aimed at helping members and leaders benefit from increased awareness and safety as they serve and participate in Church activities.
Several helpful videos cover key principles for planning a safe activity.
Revised Permission and Medical Release Form
To make it easier to obtain and complete the required Permission and Medical Release Form, a revised and fillable PDF of the form is available in English on safety.churchofjesuschrist.org. “This is the No. 1 accessed form on our website,” Rogers said. Translated versions should be available online near the end of May.
Risk Management is also working to get the Permission and Medical Release Form on the Gospel Living app. Once there, the form can be completed, stored and accessed from the “Circles” function, Rogers said.