Internal Decorations of Clergy Housing: Parish/Volunteer/CDM Requirements

The re-decoration of a vicarage for a newly appointed clergyperson is a wonderful way of welcoming that person into their new home. In many cases, parishes will employ volunteers to carry out the work, in others, a professional decorator.

This brief note is intended to remind those who manage the redecoration that they have the same type of responsibilities for the health and safety of the volunteers as they would if those volunteers were working on the church.They also have responsibilities under CDM* (see below) if employing a professional decorator.

*Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (often shortened to CDM) are intended to protect the health and safety of people carrying out building works.The most recent version of the CDM regulations were issued in 2015 and are known as CDM 2015.

You may be surprised that decoration of a house is interpreted under CDM as building work.

If we employ a professional decorator to work on our own property (or that of a relative), we would be classed as a domestic client and have very little responsibility under CDM. However, it is the opinion of the Diocesan Surveyor that a parish organising the re-decoration of a vicarage would be classed as a commercial client under CDM 2015. This requires the Parish to ensure that their contractor has prepared a Construction Phase Plan for the works, that they have the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capability for the work, that they have arranged for suitable welfare facilities, and the Parish must ensure that the contractor has allowed sufficient time and resources for the work.

If the Parish is using volunteers to do the decorating work, much of the above would apply and the Parish would have a duty of care to ensure that the volunteers were able to carry out the work in a safe manner.

Fortunately, Ecclesiastical has produced very readable and detailed guidance notes, 'Church Health and Safety' which outline the duties of a client under CDM as well as identifying the typical risks that may be encountered in working on church buildings.

The main factors and hazards to address in redecorating a vicarage are considered to be:

  1. Falls from height (from ladders).(See Ecclesiasticals guide, page 22)
  2. Trips, slips and falls (uneven floors, protruding nails in un-carpeted floors, wet or slippery floors, trailing leads, frayed or loose carpets).(See Ecclesiasticals guide, page 17)
  3. Manual handling of furniture, appliances or equipment (like ladders)
  4. Asbestos: It is unlikely that the volunteer decorator will encounter asbestos containing materials. Nevertheless, the person responsible for organising the work must check the asbestos survey for that particular house and make sure all volunteers working on the site are aware of the existence and location of any asbestos containing materials.).
  5. Electricity: Great care must be taken by volunteers if drilling into walls to avoid hitting electricity cables.It cannot be taken for granted that the cables run vertically above power sockets or light switches.If in doubt, the mains should be switched off and battery drills employed.
    Sometimes electrical works will be carried out as part of Ingoing Works and wiring may be exposed. The main contractor and Parish supervisor should ensure that volunteers are aware of this and how they are to avoid contact with exposed wiring.
  6. Dust: Fine dust produced by rubbing down and preparing surfaces might be a hazard to those with respiratory problems.Volunteers may have to be provided with dust masks or excluded from that area whilst the work is being carried out.
  7. Personal Safety: On no account, should a volunteer be allowed to work on their own. Volunteers must wear appropriate footwear.
  8. Exchange of Information: Sometimes it is unavoidable for volunteer decorators, or a decorator employed by the Parish, to be working in the vicarage at the same time as a main contractor employed by the Diocese.

The vicarage is deemed to be a building site under the jurisdiction of the main contractor for the duration of their works. It is at their discretion that decorators (or contractors employed by the parish) be permitted on their site. At the very least, the main contractor would require the name and contact details of the person organising work on behalf of the parish, the names and contact details of a contractor employed by the Parish, the nature of their work and when it was to be carried out. The Diocese would expect the main contractor to meet the Parishs supervisor before their work commenced to pass on any relevant health and safety information and site rules.


  • 'Church Health and Safety 5th version', Ecclesiastical 
  • 'Commercial Clients: Rules and Responsibilities, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015)' HSE website 
  • 'Construction Phase Plan (CDM 2015): What you need to know as a Busy Builder' HSE CIS80 04/15

Charles Glenn,
25th April 2016

Page last updated: Monday 23rd March 2020 1:04 PM
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