The Formalities

A man using a laptop in a workshop.

Health and Safety

As community groups and organisations, Sheds have a duty of care under civil law towards their volunteers and fellow Shedders. Considering the health and safety (H&S) of your members in all areas of the Shed is vital.

Be reassured that although it can seem like a big hurdle before you start, having simple, straightforward policies, procedures and checklists is the key to effective health and safety.

You’ll need to at least consider the following:

  • Keep an H&S policy with relevant guidelines clearly accessible in the Shed.
  • Keep a regularly updated Risk Assessment with clear mitigation methods.
  • A safety induction for general tool use for each new member (no matter how experienced they are when they join) and a record of this, plus refreshers at appropriate intervals.
  • First Aid training for a few Shedders to ensure you always have a first aider in the Shed. Keep well equipped, regularly topped up first aid kits in accessible places.
  • Fire safety guidelines and extinguishers in easily accessible places, and an identified, well-known fire safety point away from the building.
  • Building Regulations certificate for the building (the building owner’s responsibility).
  • Shed safety posters showing clear procedures e.g. goggles to be worn at all times when sawing etc.
  • Make sure safety measures like ventilation and dust extraction are in place where necessary and equip the Shed with relevant Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Things like googles and dust masks are inexpensive, but invaluable.
  • If you have adults at risk in your membership, you should implement a Safeguarding Policy.
  • Consider PAT on electrical equipment to ensure their safety, particularly those donated and not bought by the Shed from new i.e. no guarantee.

The more thorough your H&S procedures, the safer and more insurable you’ll be. That can mean more cost effective premiums too.

We have plenty of examples and templates in the Safety and Risk Management section of our Resource Library to help you and your members stay safe.

Insurance

As soon as your group starts meeting and carrying out even basic activities, you’ll need insurance. This applies even if you don’t have premises yet, but are working in the community or doing projects together in a temporary place. You will always need Public Liability insurance, but you should also consider the following:

  • Property Damage (or buildings and contents)
  • Product Liability
  • Employer’s Liability
  • Trustee Indemnity

You can read about each of these in our Insuring your Shed guide in our Resource Library, where you’ll also find details of our recommended supplier. It is important that you fully explain your activities to your insurer to get the right cover, and practice good health and safety to show your insurer you’ve mitigated against risks. This can help bring down your premium too.

How much will it cost?

Each Shed is different and a lot of costs depend on location and facilities, therefore it’s impossible to give a definitive answer of how much it will cost. Do some research into what your Shed will cost for your group and how you’ll fund it before you get started.

Most Sheds use a combination of income streams; earned, donated, grants and membership. We have found that the most sustainable are those that have a good mix of income streams with higher levels of self-generated income meaning less reliance on grants. The key areas to think about when planning your budget are:

Most Sheds charge a membership fee of some kind and we recommend you charge enough to cover your basic ongoing costs without relying on other types of income for these. One way to do this is to ask for an annual donation (which you might be able to claim Gift Aid on) and then ask for a small session fee on top. Be careful not to charge too much as this can create barriers for those on a low income.

You can earn additional income through selling items made in the Shed, taking on community projects for donations and applying for funding here and there for those ‘nice to have’ things. See our Income Generation and Fundraising guides for some tips.

Banking

Once you’re a constituted group and you’re generating money through memberships, you’ll need a bank account. You can then start receiving donations and memberships straight to your bank, and your money can be kept securely.

Most banks and building societies offer special accounts for small voluntary and community organisations and give free banking as long as your account is in credit. You might want to see what your local branch can offer. The convenience of local banking shouldn’t be underestimated.

Check that the account is:

  • Specifically for community groups, or charities if your group is a charity. Banks sometimes refer to community groups as “Clubs and Societies”.
  • Not for businesses, as they often charge for business accounts.
  • Offering “free banking”. This means you won’t have to pay any charges simply for having the account, although you will probably still have to pay for things like going overdrawn, stopping cheques or requesting extra statements.

To open a voluntary group or charity account you will be asked for proof that your group is a voluntary, non-profit-making organisation and not a private business.

This could be one of the following:

  • Copy of your group’s Constitution or Trust Deed.
  • Charity number, if you’re a registered charity.

Make sure you set your account up so that at least two people are required to sign each cheque or online transaction, and to approve withdrawals. This increases safety and accountability.

And finally, some closing thoughts.

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