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There are a number of important principles to think about when you are planning for healthy and safe environments or activities with children. Most of these are common sense but you need to remember that everyone is an individual and may have different needs. There are several points to take into consideration when planning safety –
• Every child is an individual – with different needs depending on their age and abilities. You must think about this when planning activities.
• Some children have specific needs such as sensory impairments.
• The different needs of families and careers must be considered.
• Always be clear about why you are using the environment in question, the activities a child encounters and what sort of services are offered.
• The duty of care of a setting to children, parents and careers is a legal obligation. You should always have the child’s safety and welfare in the front of your mind when planning.
• The desired outcomes for the children are the starting point. Most activities with children should have clear aims and objectives that are based around the required outcomes linked to their age.
• Lines of responsibility and accountability are down to everyone that is employed in a setting , responsibility for the health and safety of children and staff are down to all employers and there should be clear reporting responsibilities.
Any setting should have clear policies and procedures about all aspects of health and safety. All rooms and equipment used by children should have regular checks to ensure that everything is working well and is safe. Some of these checks are required by law ie. Electrical equipment must be checked by a qualified electrician every year.
Managers should make sure that health and safety checks are carried out as required. In the case of an accident, failure to check equipment could have serious implications.
It is important that visitors follow safety guidelines to protect children in the setting.
People who work there will be given instructions and training on health and safety. But how can a manager of a care setting make sure that parents, careers or work people know about health and safety requirements?
The information that they will need depends on several factors-
• How long they are at the setting
• Which areas of the setting they have access to
• There role and responsibilities
• Contact with the children at the setting.
The setting should have copies of all the latest legislation and guidance as well as their own policies and procedures. The internet is a very good source of information, here are some websites about health and safety –
• Health and safety executive, www.hse.gov.uk/
• Child accident prevention trust, www.capt.org.uk/
• Department of education, www.education.gov.uk
The most important legislation in the UK is the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Since 2008 this sits alongside health and safety legislation and covers every aspect of the welfare of children which includes –
• Suitable people
• Suitable premises and equipment
There are differences in the exact application of health and safety legislation in each of the countries in the UK. It is important that you familiarise yourself with the framework in your own country. You should be aware of the following-
• Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
• Product safety marking
• Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts)(Amendment) Regulations 2006
• Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002
• Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995
• Childcare Act 2006 – this sets out the statutary framework for assessment of settings, including health and safety in EYFS in force from Sept 2008
• Smoking Ban – UK wide in indoor public places from 1st July 2007 (EYFS includes a legal requirement to ensure children are always in a smoke-free environment)
• Food Hygiene legislation 2006
Any setting or activity carries a level of risk, by identifying and reducing risks in advance, full use can be made of the setting or activity to maximise the value to and enjoyment by the children in your care.
There are several different risks that you need to consider-
• Physical risks
• Security risks
• Fire risks
• Food safety risks
• Emotional risks
• Personal safety risks
Effective management of risk should become automatic as you become more experienced. For every activity you plan, you should think about the hazards, the likelihood of the hazard occurring and the control measures.
If you see a hazard as part of your day to day work deal with it straight away, it can be as simple as mopping up spilt water or moving toys of the floor.
Risk assessment forms are used to assess hazards and identify control measures for all activities and outings, in our setting we also have risk assessments for the use of mobile phones and the internet.
A good risk assessment is only valid at the time it is carried out. Although the setting, outing or activity may be one you have used many times, one very important factor will change-
The children taking part. Effective risk assessments must take account of each child taking part and the number of children.
Once you have started the activity that you have risk assessed it is important that you monitor the risks you identified and if anything changes you should review and change the risk assessment immediately
Any activity a child does involves some risk. If the activity is well planned and organised with thought given to possible risks the likelihood of an accident or injury should be minimal. The secret is to balance the risks of an activity against the benefit to and safety of the child.
Risk and challenge are important to a child’s development. Avoiding all risks and challenges would result in a very timid adult lacking in many everyday skills and abilities. It would be very easy to respond to all the risks to which children are exposed by not allowing them to explore or experiment.
Children need to explore their environment, it is one of the ways in which they learn, but it needs to be a “safe” environment where the risk is controlled by adults. Children need some freedom in order to develop their skills.
Understanding the stage of development a child is at and their individual needs can help you to provide the right amount of risk in activities.
Children learn by trying out new experiences and making choices. But they do not have the skills and judgement to make safe choices. Careers have the responsibility to identify potential hazards in any situation and to judge when it is safe to allow a child to undertake an activity or make a choice. Some children need this freedom to explore risk more than others. In a well-controlled setting the child can be encouraged to explore and try out new skills.
Children are usually very good at deciding what is safe or not. Using large play equipment is a good example of how children assess and manage risk. Without adult or another child’s interference most children will not stretch themselves beyond their capabilities.
If a child in your care has an accident it is your main responsibility to know what to do in an emergency and to carry out the required actions calmly and confidently so that you meet one of the prime aims of first aid, which is to preserve life and to prevent the effects of the injury becoming worse than necessary.
The correct actions after an accident can save life, ie. People have died unnecessarily as a result of a blocked airway that needed little skill to open. A valid paediatric first aid certificate is a requirement for many child care jobs, here are a few things to do when faced with an injury –
• Keep calm
• Assess the situation
• Airway – is it open?
• Breathing – are they breathing?
• Circulation – is there a pulse?
• Bleeding – check
• Call for help.
All children will have an emergency contact number but it may not be the child’s parents, because of work commitments may make it difficult for them to be contacted, it may be that the grandparents or auntie that is the emergency contact instead but these are all things that need to be checked at the time.
The person in charge must get in touch with the emergency contact as soon as possible and inform the relevant person of the incident, and where the child has been taken. Obviously, someone the child knows well should go to the hospital with them until there parents or other careers arrive.this will help reassure the child and be a point of contact when the parents arrive.
Under certain circumstances accidents may need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive, particularly if the child is seriously injured, examples of this would include –
• A major injury (such as fractured limbs, electric shock, unconsciousness)
• If the child is absent through the injury for more than three days.
Even a minor accident requires an entry to be made in the accident book, for more serious incidents a full report is needed. After any such event the person in charge should examine the circumstances to see what can be done to prevent any similar occurring.