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Running a Safe Church Op-shop

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Op-shops have certainly re-emerged as an all-round experience for all ages! People enjoy finding bargains, scoring one-of-a-kind pieces or feel good when they can pay it forward by donating goods. More churches are discovering that op-shops provide the perfect chance to generate extra revenue and establish a critical touchpoint for community connection.   

Though the donations from the public are well-intentioned, the responsibility to ensure that the donated goods undergo a thorough inspection to guarantee their safety and suitability for resale sits squarely with the op-shop or the Church that runs it. Some items, like second-hand bike helmets, child car seats, baby carriers or knives may not be suitable for resale due to safety concerns or legal reasons, so careful planning and policy writing are crucial to long-term success.   

We aim to see your church op-shop thrive and help you avoid pitfalls. To assist you, here are the key topics this article will cover 

  • Legal Requirements around Goods 
  • Risks and Hazards  
  • Work Health and Safety Management System (WHSMS)
  • Insurance Management

Legal Requirements around Goods  

Understanding the Legal Landscape  

The legal framework governing the sale of second-hand goods involves various health and safety standards and we highly encourage you to seek your own legal advice around compliance. When it comes to risk management, irrespective of whether yours is a small rural op-shop or a high-end designer shop in the CBD, you will have to adhere to the standards set out. 

Consumer Guarantees and Australian Consumer Law  

The Australian Consumer Law outlines statutory guarantees that extend to new products and second-hand goods. Sellers must know these consumer guarantees and their application to the organisation. In case of uncertainty, contacting the local state and territory consumer protection agency is advisable.  

Specific Requirements for Common Items  

Certain everyday items encountered in op-shops have specific legal requirements. Here are some examples (although this is not an exhaustive list).


Electrical Goods  

Attaching a label stating its second-hand status is mandatory for selling or supplying second-hand electrical equipment.  

Testing by a competent person is recommended, with a test report and label indicating safety compliance.  

Failed equipment should be appropriately disposed of. 

Children’s Toys  

Subject to five mandatory safety standards, including addressing choking hazards and potential injuries.  

Standards cover issues like small parts, projectile toys, toys containing magnets, floatation and aquatic toys, and lead and other elements.  

Adherence to safety standards is crucial, with specific warnings required for certain types of toys. We recommend you refer to the ACCC/Product Safety website for specifics on the updated standards, which were updated on 5 September 2023. 

Copyright and Trademark Laws  

Selling counterfeit goods, such as DVDs, CDs, T-shirts, bags, and perfumes, is an offence under Australia’s copyright and trademark laws.  

Legal and Taxation Matters

To ensure compliance with legal and taxation obligations in operating the op-shop, it is essential to seek advice from qualified experts. Regularly engaging with legal professionals who are well-versed in retail laws and standards can help navigate the complexities of evolving regulations. Maintaining detailed records and conducting periodic compliance audits are crucial for verifying that all safety protocols and training programs are up-to-date and effective. The op-shop can create a safe and legally compliant environment for staff and patrons by adopting these measures.

Copyright and Trademark Laws  

Identifying and mitigating risks and hazards is essential for the safety of both staff and customers. A thorough risk assessment of the op-shop premises can help you identify factors like potential slips, trips, and falls. Risk assessments can also help establish protocols for handling fragile or hazardous items and ensure that all staff and volunteers are trained in safety procedures. Below are some key challenges to consider when looking at risk and dangerous situations and ways to mitigate the risk.   

1. Store Layout & People Movement  

Challenge: Managing the layout, space, and movement of people within the op-shop is a continuous challenge. The risk is heightened by constraints in available space, especially when dealing with increased customer numbers. The smaller sorting spaces for volunteers also contribute to potential safety risks. A higher concentration of individuals in confined spaces inevitably leads to injuries for both patrons and employees, resulting in costly liability claims. 

2. Employee & Volunteer Management  

Challenge: Op-shops heavily rely on volunteers who dedicate their time to support various programs. Despite being volunteers, their expectations regarding management and safety are similar to those of paid employees. The risk involves ensuring that all retail-focused Work Health and Safety requirements are implemented to maintain a healthy, happy, and sustainable workforce. 

Risk Mitigation: Prioritise implementing Work Health and Safety requirements for all volunteers. Provide training to volunteers, emphasising safety protocols, manual handling procedures and code of conduct expectations.   

Our article on Valuing and Protecting Our Volunteers goes into this in much more detail.

3. Stock Collection and Management  

Challenge: Charities face challenges associated with theft, dumping of household rubbish, and risks related to charity bins, including fire hazards and drug paraphernalia. The collection and management of electrical goods also require attention to prevent safety issues.  

Risk Mitigation: Implement security measures to combat theft and vandalism, including monitoring and adequate lighting. Collaborate with local authorities to address issues related to dumped rubbish. 

Develop strict protocols for collecting and managing electrical goods, ensuring adherence to safety standards. Educate staff and volunteers on the potential risks associated with different types of donations.  

4. Committee & Governance Responsibility  

Challenge: Most church op shops tend to operate under the governance and directorship of the church board.   

Risk Mitigation: Provide governance training to committee members to enhance their understanding of their responsibilities. Establish transparent processes for financial oversight and accountability. 


1. Hazardous Chemicals  

Challenge: Op-shops may store and use hazardous chemicals, posing risks to workers’ health and safety. Hazardous chemicals can cause injuries, illnesses, and property damage if not handled, stored, and used correctly.  

Risk Mitigation: Develop and implement robust policies for handling, storing, and using hazardous chemicals. Train workers, volunteers, and contractors on proper chemical handling procedures. 

Ensure compliance with WHS regulations, including maintaining registers, obtaining Safety Data Sheets, and conducting regular risk assessments.  

2. Manual Handling or Hazardous Manual Tasks

Challenge: Manual handling of tasks like lifting, carrying, and moving objects can lead to injuries if not performed correctly. 

Risk Mitigation: Identify and assess all manual handling tasks in the workplace. Implement controls, such as mechanical aids, to reduce the risk of injuries. 

Train workers on safe manual handling techniques and conduct regular reviews to ensure the effectiveness of control measures.  

3. Slips and Trips

Challenge: Slips and trips are common causes of workplace injuries. Factors such as wet or uneven flooring, loose tiles, or inadequate lighting increase the risk of slips and trips.  

Risk Mitigation: Implement good housekeeping practices to maintain clean and dry floors. Conduct regular inspections, slip testing, and proper maintenance of flooring. 

Ensure adequate lighting in all areas. Use non-slip matting at entrances and secure electrical cords to prevent tripping hazards. Keep walkways clear of clutter 

4. Workplace Bullying

Challenge: Workplace bullying, defined as repeated abuse directed at employees, volunteers, or contractors, poses risks to health and safety. It can lead to psychological conditions, affect physical well-being, and result in high staff turnover and low morale.  

Risk Mitigation: Establish effective bullying policies and procedures, ensuring all workers receive adequate training. Investigate all complaints and ensure no victimisation of complainants. Stay compliant with legislative requirements and adapt policies to address evolving concerns.  

5. Volunteer Screening 

By having strong screening processes, organisations show they care about their volunteers and are committed to making the experience positive and safe for everyone involved. Refer to our article on Valuing and Protecting our Volunteers

6. Cash Handling – Policies/Procedures/Banking 

Adopting robust cash handling policies and procedures is essential for church op-shops in Australia to ensure the integrity and security of financial transactions. The challenge is to maintain correct money-handling processes and reconcile cash effectively to avoid theft or misappropriation of funds. Secure storage must be arranged for cash and other valuable items, including using a safe or a locked repository accessible only to authorised personnel.

Risk mitigation is critical; this includes screening and training staff who handle money and employing appropriate segregation of duties to provide transparency in financial dealings. Regular financial audits and ensuring that cash is banked regularly are also crucial. Cash should be securely stored in a locked safe if immediate banking is not possible. Further material and strategies for managing money-handling risks can be found in our Online Risk Guide portal.

By enforcing these practices, church op-shops can maintain financial transparency and safeguard their resources, which are vital for their ongoing charitable activities.

Financial Management

Sound financial management is a crucial aspect of op-shop planning. Develop a budget that outlines expected income, expenses, and profit margins. Implement financial controls, such as regular audits and transparent record-keeping, to ensure accountability and prevent discrepancies. Clearly define pricing strategies for items based on their value and market demand. Regularly review financial performance against set targets and adjust to meet organisational objectives.  

Developing a Work Health and Safety Management System (WHSMS):

Managing a workforce that primarily consists of volunteers is a unique aspect of running an op-shop. While these individuals generously contribute their time to support church programs and initiatives, it is essential to recognise that their expectations regarding safety and management are no different from those of paid employees.

To ensure healthy and happy staff, it is imperative to implement all relevant Work Health and Safety (WHS) requirements tailored to the retail environment. Op-shops are also a space where churches will see high volunteerism from older members of the community or congregation which poses higher responsibility on the church from an OH&S perspective and to manage risk based on physical ability/health.  

Ensuring the safety and well-being of employees and volunteers in a church-operated op-shop requires implementing a robust Work Health and Safety Management System (WHSMS). This system is essential for creating safer workplaces, improving worker morale, and reducing the likelihood of workplace injuries and incidents.  

Insurance Management: Safeguarding Church Op-shops 

1. Property Protection:  

Insurance plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the physical assets of a church-operated op-shop. Property coverage ensures financial protection in the face of unforeseen events such as fire, natural disasters, or vandalism, helping the op-shop recover and continue its mission.  

2. Liability Coverage:  

Liability insurance is crucial for op-shops to mitigate potential legal and financial risks. This coverage addresses third-party claims related to injuries or property damage that may occur on the op-shop premises, offering financial protection and ensuring responsible operation.  

3. Theft and Security:  

Given the unfortunate reality of theft challenges op-shops face, insurance tailored for theft protection becomes essential. This coverage helps recover losses incurred due to stolen goods, providing a safety net against criminal activities impacting the op-shop’s resources.  

4. Volunteer Workers Personal Accident  

Volunteer Workers’ Personal Accident insurance is vital for op-shop volunteers, safeguarding their well-being as they dedicate their time and effort to community service. This insurance coverage can provide financial protection against loss of income or perhaps some non-Medicare related expenses when a volunteer suffers an accidental injury. 

Considering the diverse tasks and environments op-shop volunteers engage in, from lifting heavy objects to interacting with the public, the risk of accidents remains significant. Volunteer Workers Personal Accident insurance not only demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to the safety of its volunteers but also fosters a sense of security, encouraging continued volunteer participation.  

5. Worker’s Compensation:  

Workers’ compensation insurance is vital to ensure the well-being of employees. This coverage supports individuals in case of work-related injuries or illnesses, reinforcing the commitment to a safe and caring environment within the op-shop.  

6. Regular Policy Reviews:  

Regularly reviewing insurance policies is an ongoing process to align with the op-shop’s evolving needs. Any changes in operations, inventory, or external factors should prompt adjustments to coverage, ensuring the insurance portfolio remains comprehensive and practical. Adequate insurance provides financial security and contributes to the op-shop’s overall sustainability and resilience in fulfilling its mission within the community.  

In conclusion, running a church op-shop is more than just a means to generate additional revenue; it’s a valuable opportunity to connect with and serve the community. Safety, legality, and operational efficiency are paramount to ensuring the success and sustainability of your op-shop. Adhering to the guidelines and best practices outlined in this article can create a safe, welcoming, and legally compliant environment for your staff, volunteers, and patrons. 

Key Takeaways: 

Legal Compliance: Understand and adhere to the legal requirements governing the sale of second-hand goods, including consumer law and specific standards for items like electrical goods and children’s toys. 

Risk Management: Proactively identify and mitigate risks and hazards within your op-shop to ensure the safety of both staff and customers. Regular risk assessments and safety protocols are essential. 

Volunteer Management: Provide ongoing training and support to your volunteers, ensuring they understand their roles, responsibilities, and the importance of safety measures. 

Operational Best Practices: Implement clear policies and procedures for stock management, store layout, cash handling, and other operational aspects to ensure efficiency and safety. 

Insurance: Secure appropriate insurance coverage to protect your op-shop against potential liabilities, including property damage, theft, and volunteer accidents. 

Continual Improvement: Regularly review and update your policies, procedures, and training programs to adapt to new challenges and ensure continuous improvement in your op-shop operations. 

ACS Financial has provided expert insurance advice and tailored insurance solutions to churches and ministries across Australia for 30 years. Our team of insurance experts understand the unique nature of ministry and have access to a broad range of products that will protect your activities allowing your ministry to grow and flourish.

Contact our team at 1800 646 777 to discuss your church insurance and protection requirements today.

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