The coronavirus caught us all unaware. Right when the entire world had big plans and resolutions laid out for the year ahead, it crept in quietly from behind and turned our lives upside down. But the resilient lot that we all are, we adapted and evolved as best as we could to the new way of doing things.
As we now prepare ourselves and our businesses to ease into the post-lockdown world, one of the strategies that are at the forefront for all organisations is the implementation of effective infection control measures at work.
Infection control is the rollout of standardised hygiene procedures, practices and precautions to prevent the spread of germs and infections. This is especially important for early years settings as it is a shared environment where children are in close proximity for most of the day.
As Melanie Pilcher, Quality and Standards Manager at the Early Years Alliance points out, ‘The risk of infections is particularly high in early years settings as children share toys and resources which can be easily contaminated with saliva, urine, or faeces, and it's more challenging to get them to understand the importance of good hygiene practices such as washing hands’.
It’s therefore crucial that childcare providers have a workable infection control procedure for staff and children. Here is a look at some of the important points to include when developing your plan:
Establish a routine for handwashing
Demonstrate, encourage and practise good hand-washing techniques with the children. Get staff and children into a habit of washing their hands:
- As soon as they arrive
- Before each snack or meal
- After they blow their nose and after they have used the toilet
- Following messy play sessions or outdoor activities
- After administering medication to a child
- If they come into contact with body fluids or handle soiled clothes
- After touching pets, cages
- Following every nappy change – even if they wore gloves
- Post the removal of single-use or other protective gloves
- After using computer keyboards and shared devices
Also, make sure all staff and children dispose of used tissues immediately. Put out extra bins and display prominent signs to remind the children to wash their hands as soon as they have binned the tissue.
Handling of toys, equipment and devices
- Consider letting your staff do the sign-in/outs instead of the parents. This will help minimise the handling of paper/devices by different people. For example, use the bulk sign-in/out feature if you are using the Cheqdin App for daily sign-in/outs.
Please see our article on ‘The best ways to leverage Cheqdin during COVID closure’ for more information on the optimal use of our software to minimise contact during administrative procedures.
- Wipe down high-traffic surfaces regularly with disinfectant/anti-viral sprays or wipes. It’s ideal to do this before and after each session, and in between - as required. Some of the areas to pay attention to are door handles, electronic door entry systems, light switches, tables, electronic devices including laptop keyboards, and other hand-held toys and devices. However, there is no need to go for a deep clean of unless you’ve been notified that a staff/child at your setting has tested positive for the virus.
Use appropriate PPE
Make sure all staff members follow guidelines and use appropriate Personal Protection Equipment such as aprons, gloves and masks when during nappy changing and when cleaning up or involved in any activity that poses a risk of contamination. This is crucial to protect the staff from infections and also to prevent germs from passing on to the children via their hands or clothing.
Create guidelines for managing illnesses/infections
As Covid-19 and most other infectious diseases can be contagious long before the onset of obvious symptoms, it can sometimes be impossible to prevent infections despite stringent hygiene practices. However, make sure you put a ‘stay at home’ policy in place for staff or children who are unwell/showing symptoms.
- If staff/children have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, make sure they stay home for two weeks or until they have tested negative for the virus.
- If anyone comes down with a high temperature (i.e. over 100° Fahrenheit / 37.8° Celsius) or a new continuous cough, ensure they self-isolate for 14 days, even if they haven't been in contact with anyone who has.
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