Maintaining health and safety within a nursery is critical to the highly vulnerable nature of all early years populations. As the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 specifies within all workplace settings, a nursery is no exception. As such, employers, managers, and owners are legally required to ensure that children and staff remain protected from any hazards of working or being in a nursery.
While the law doesn't expect all risks to remain eliminated, it does require employers to take reasonable precautions and train staff to make them aware of all responsibilities. Users must assess any risk, and the team must take reasonable steps to mitigate them accordingly.
What are Health and Safety Policies?
Health and safety policy is a generalised term covering a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The term describes all Occupational Health and Safety relating to the prevention of ill health and accidents of employees and anyone influenced by their work. As a standard definition, Health and Safety include "regulations and procedures intended to prevent accident or injury in workplaces or public environments."
Why is it essential to have an H&S policy for your setting?
A health and safety policy is the morally right thing to do; it keeps all workers and registered pupils safe and healthy at the end of every working day. An adequate H & S policy can reduce staff absences, improving productivity and efficiency while keeping vulnerable populations safe throughout the day.
Early Years Centres have a legal obligation to minimise all risks, keep with regular risk assessments, and identify aspects of the environment that workers must check regularly. This requirement requires facilities to take reasonable precautions, train staff, and make them aware of their responsibilities. This prerequisite is fundamental in early years settings, where children are encouraged to grow, develop, and take age-appropriate risks through physically challenging play. Children must have the knowledge and opportunity to determine what's safe and what to do when faced with a risk.
All childcare settings should hold comprehensive risk assessments that work to educate and inform, along with a competent person leading the implementation. Staff in all environments (at virtually every level) must be involved in risk assessments. These individuals must remain the ones with first-hand knowledge on whether control measures are currently effective and offer an informed view on updating them regularly. As an assessment, these operations should be annual or biannual, with headings that rarely change.
It's critical to recognise that parents have an active role too. All parents should be aware of their innate responsibility to identify risks and potential hazards. Invite all parents to take an active part in reviewing these procedures whenever possible. You'll mitigate any ongoing risks or problems by encouraging everyone to get involved.
Five ways to keep your childcare centre health and safety compliant
Remaining compliant isn't simply keeping children safe; there are several conditions and stipulations that influence health and safety policies. Here are five ways to keep your centre compliant if you're looking to develop new approaches.
1. Control Movement Around Nursery
Nearly 55% of all accidents within the education industry relate to tripping or slipping within the environment. Most of these incidents are easily avoided by ensuring:
- Ideal lighting within the location. Offer safe access to and egress from the site.
- Monitoring internal flooring and keeping it in decent operating condition.
- Ensuring robust procedures for spills or liquids.
- Removing any electric cables or leads.
- Keeping all storage rooms, stock areas, or staff resting locations in tide states, including all items on shelves or lockers.
Develop a health and safety policy that makes people's responsibilities clear. Ensure that all staff understand the terms and operating conditions within the facility.
2. Establish Boundaries for Working at Heights
Maintaining safe procedures starts with a basic understanding of heights and overall risk. For example, standing on top of desk chairs to reach a high shelf isn't appropriate but is the go-to method of climbing within a childcare centre. To minimise this risk, develop a proper outline of safety procedures:
- Determine whether any above-ground windows are secure to prevent falls.
- Locate an elephant-foot step stool for use within the centre.
- Determine adequate safety for any window openers.
Remember that any activities above floor level must maintain proper supervision and risk assessment.
3. Maintain all Furniture and Fittings
While there is increasing financial pressure within education to reduce costs, it's imperative to maintain furniture and fittings within the centre. When establishing the risk assessment, consider reviewing the following areas:
- Regularly inspect permanent fixtures for overall fastening and condition.
- Assess whether the furniture is in decent repair and holds suitable for the age and size of the user.
- Evaluate whether all portable equipment is appropriately secure and in good working order.
4. Build Enforceable Safety Rules
Ensure that all staff are up to date on all health and safety guidelines within the facility, including all incorporated guidelines for staff and children. These safety rules may include a no running policy, demanding supervision for all children wanting to use the equipment or an apparatus, teaching children safe methods for carrying gear and enforcing management of all groups of children.
5. Develop a Fire Policy
Are there fire exit doors within the classroom for all exits within the centre? If so, ensure that all nursery leaders can confirm access to the door. This policy includes a fire evacuation procedure and keeping all staff up to date on exit strategies. Finally, continuously monitor the facility to keep all exits unobstructed and easily unlocked in an emergency.
What benefits can your business derive from being compliant?
The benefits of a health and safety plan expand well beyond the safe workplace but into the business's core functioning. Employers and employees both benefit significantly from comprehensive planning, regardless of size. A company that consistently remains compliant with safety legislation can empower the workforce, helping businesses achieve growth and reducing exposures and accidents.
Compliance can reduce sick leave, helping employers maintain a healthy and happy atmosphere. As a result, fewer employees take sick days, with fewer reported absences. This minimisation translates into money savings, holding less overtime from staff covering sick employees. Additionally, the facility develops a better reputation within the community for overall safety and general improvements.
H&S safety legislation in the US
As the first step in developing a safety protocol, all childcare providers must apply for a license within the appropriate state or local government. Licensing doesn't guarantee the quality of care but sets the minimum requirements for programs. The licensing monitor centres for compliance with these mandates.
Many childcare licensing regulations encompass different topics, including all supervision requirements of the children, the number of kids under adult supervision, any training and health requirements of those working at the centre, and all safety conditions.
Child care licensing requirements will vary by state; the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations includes specific state licensing departments. Interested applicants can visit the local websites to confirm regulations and conditions.
Health and Safety Legislation in the UK
Developing a safe and secure environment must start within the facility, particularly as parents should be able to build confidence that their children will receive the best experience, protected from harm. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) works to safeguard facilities and enforce welfare requirements as a framework for this assurance. As a general legal requirement, the EYFS builds general and specific legal requirements to force regulations to be complied with by early years providers. It also contains statutory guidance that all providers and facilities must follow, understand, and implement within the centre.
The EYFS requires the following details for all early years facilities:
- A comprehensive health and safety policy should be in place, including identifying, reporting, and dealing with any hazards, accidents, and faulty equipment. All premises and equipment should be clean, with providers aware of health and safety legislation requirements. This requirement includes hygiene requirements (such as up-to-date details).
- A provider's health and safety policy should also reference any procedures that a setting has in place from a policy standpoint. This may include the following components:
- Manual handling
- Risk assessment procedures
- Fire safety and risk assessment
- Reporting injuries, diseases, and dangerous occurrences (RIDDOR) events
- Control of substances which are hazardous to health (COSHH Regulations)
- Individual rooms like cloakrooms, stairways and corridors, laundry room, and bathroom)
- Outdoors, gardens, or outings
- Maintenance and repairs
- Festivals and decorations
How to Get Started with Health and Safety Requirements
While developing a health and safety policy sounds intimidating, there are several templates and policy guidelines companies can follow online. These templates can assist businesses wanting to incorporate new health and safety procedures without the legal limitations.
Visit the Health and Safety Executive for online resources, including step-by-step policy guidelines. With a legal requirement to develop a health and safety plan, the CPD Online College offers free templates and filing procedures. Finally, anyone looking for Health and Safety Training Courses is encouraged to look into the British Safety Council, offering comprehensive training and various safety, health, and environmental management qualifications.
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