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Health & Safety

Health and safety officers report 2017


There have been no reports of any injuries to anyone in the Guild in the last 12 months.

In itself this could be interpreted as a good thing. But it may also be that incidents have happened but as there is no requirement to report them to the guild we might never hear of any. If you are aware of any please let me know.

Research by the British Medical Association suggests that there will be some 18 significant injuries each year in a cohort the size of our membership. The president of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers suggests that we have a very safe occupation and that there are only two incidents each year. In fact the two incidents he reported on were those that required rescue in upstairs ringing chambers with spiral staircase access reported in the press and not the number of incidents in the country.

What should be important to us is not the figures but that within our environment as bell ringer we do all in our power to make sure that no one is injured and that if anyone is injured then we report it to the guild so that we can disseminate why the incidents happened. Unfortunately, the two incidents reported in the press and by the Central Council and Ringing World give insufficient information as to why they occurred.

The basis of a safe environment is the risk assessment, this will identify the hardware issues that are associated with bell ringing such as regularly checking and recording that stays are sound, access to towers and to the bells etc, but also that our ringers do not commit unsafe acts or omissions and that we all are properly trained and competent.

Many years ago, Herbert Heinrich an industrial health and safety professional noted that by identifying unsafe acts he could reduce near misses, in consequence have fewer numbers of minor injury incidents, fewer in numbers of serious injury and fatal injuries.

Using his principles today there are far fewer serious injuries and fatalities across industry than there were in the nineteen thirties when he devised this simple explanation. Today we can see from the injury statistics that each industry has a different shaped profile.

What is the position with bell ringers?


The injuries and causation reported by the BMA is familiar to all of us.

Talk to any ringer and they will regale you with incidents of near misses, of rope burns, lost nails, broken fingers, broken stays, ropes catching arms, elbows and feet, pockets of keys, scarfs, hems, jewellery, wall hooks, being hit by plant holders, falling through trap doors or from frames and ladders, being lifted of the floor, catching each other’s ropes etc.

Clip of ringer being hit on the head by plant holder caught in another ringers’ rope on U-Tube.


So, these are the areas where we start looking when we start doing our risk assessment and managing our risks. We have to be honest about what has happened to you and your friends and see if that might happen in your tower. Remember the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires you to have a sufficient and suitable risk assessment in place.

There is copious good practice guidance on the internet or from the ARTS web page http://ringingteachers.org/

If you want advice or guidance or practical training on risk assessments and risk management for ringers and bell hangers please contact me.


Minimising risk in teaching

The legislation requires us to eliminate or where this is not possible to minimise our risks, and this includes using state of the art processes.

One of the most exciting developments of the last few years is the dumbbell teaching aid. I am aware of only two of these in Cornwall, one in a church and one in a garage.

Here a novice ringer can be taught and practice rope control and style without having the momentum of the tower bell. Thus, when things go wrong there is little chance of injury. The learner learns quickly and if the dumbbell is linked to a simulator as above they can learn to ring in rounds, rise and fall, set etc in safety.

As a teacher it is amazing the progress the learner makes, they do not need other ringers to practice with using the computer-generated images. There are three current software systems, Bell Tower, Abel and Virtual Belfry. The learner when competent on the dumbbell just catches hold of the tower rope and rings with others in the right place. Brilliant.

They can continue to gain experience if that is what they want, learning to plain hunt or ring inside in any method without having to have a tower nearby who can do that. It is ideal to start call change or method ringing where there are few or no call change or method ringers and you ring with the virtual ringers as if they were real ringers, gaining listening skills and rope sight.

Dumbbells are not expensive, take up little room, typically being placed in the deadening chamber below the bells and the one in the picture above is positioned so that it can also ring in the circle of the tower bells.

Please consider getting one for your tower. If you would like to see the one above and experience its benefits let me know or try out either of the three software programmes then please contact me.


Robert Pearce