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Coping with External Pressures

Church bell ringers are under a number of external pressures that can have great influence on the management of bell towers. These pressures include child protection, health and safety, fire risk assessment and insurance.  However, with care, most of these factors can be managed, and even used to the bell ringer’s advantage.  

The Tower Stewardship Committee of the Central Council has been set up to monitor the development of these external factors and help ringers and tower management authorities on how to manage them.

The management of most of these external factors is usually vested in the owners of the building.  In the case of the Church of England, this is usually the Vicar, Church Wardens and PCC. However, these functions are often delegated to a specific church member.  Most parishes now have a dedicated child protection officer (sometimes called a young persons co-ordinator or similar). Usually, the church treasurer is responsible for insurance matters, and more and more, it is common practice for a health and safety officer to be appointed.  These “managers” are usually very well meaning, and have the best intentions of the church at heart. However, they may well not know, or understand how bell towers work, or even know who the ringers are at their church.

Hence it is worth ringers ensuring that their interests are looked after.  Ringers should be aware of what external pressure may affect the tower, and maintain a dialogue with the appropriate person responsible for the church policy in each area. Rather than have the church impose a policy on the bell tower, why not develop a joint policy that encompasses the whole church? The church insurance company – often the EIG – is keen to see this sort of interface between church and ringers.

However it must be understood, as in the general spirit of health and safety, the appointment of an official to look after a specific area does not excuse anyone else from having any responsibility.  Even, for example, if the tower captain is not the church's health and safety officer, he still has a degree of responsibility, for anyone entering the area s/he has responsibility for, even when the place is unattended.  Why unattended?  Just think of the consequences of leaving bells up in an unlocked tower.

Don’t be put off by the above. Risks can be managed. Assessments can be performed. Insurances can be put into place.  CRB checks can be made.

The Tower Stewardship Committee has compiled leaflets covering the following areas that offer advice on how to manage these external pressures.  They cover the following areas:-

These leaflets can be found on the Central Council web site at:-

These leaflets have been published on the Internet, in electronic form, mainly so that updates can be easily done when new and updated information is available. As the Tower Stewardship Committee has an ongoing mandate to monitor both existing and new rules and laws to see how they impact on bell ringers, we have decided to use this form of publication to ensure that the most up to date information is readily available.  If you are a tower captain without Internet access, do see if there is someone in your tower or church who can access them for you.

Why not print them out, and get together with members of your PCC (or equivalent) to produce the appropriate assessment, before one is imposed on you.

Part of the work of the Tower Stewardship Committee also involves contact and negotiations with outside organisations. Our negotiations with EIG have resulted in very competitive quotations for public liability insurance being offered to Central Council-affiliated societies, based on the number of members.  Details were published on P419 on the RW 27th April 2007.

 For further information, and help, please contact::

Ernie Runciman Chairman Tower Stewardship Committee
Phone: 07624 412 235  (Mobile);  01624 615154 (Home); Skype: ernie.runciman
32 Royal Court
Royal Avenue
Isle of Man
British Isles