A number of factors must be considered when planning environments that are healthy and safe. Outdoor areas for children and young people need to be planned to allow vigorous play with minimum risk. When having an outdoor area in any setting it is important to supply the children with full waterproof clothing. This ensures the children stay warm and dry whatever the weather. This also helps keep them dry when playing with water and messy mud and sand. When planning an activity it is always vital to make sure the activity is set in the right environment; for example when using bikes, trikes and scooters. These should be ridden outside when there is not enough space to use the equipment indoors, which could be dangerous to yourself and other children.
Every child is an individual with different needs depending on characteristics such as; age, intelligence, size, athleticism and abilities. You must consider this when planning activities for children, for example when they are involved in physical play. More consideration should be given to the needs of a child who has just become mobile than to an older child, when planning room layouts. Children who have specific needs such as sensory impairments would need more support with hearing or seeing instructions. Additional signage or sign language would help a child with limited hearing to understand what to do. The different needs of families and carers must be considered when planning for both indoor and outdoor activities. Always be clear about why you are using the type of environment for an activity and how the child will experience each activity.
The duty of care of to children, parents and carers is a legal obligation that must be adhered to at all times. You should always have the child’s safety and welfare uppermost in your mind when planning activities. All activities associated with children and young people should have clear aims and objectives that are based around the required outcomes linked to their age. An example of this is Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for children under 5 years of age. “Lines of responsibility and accountability; everyone employed in a setting has a responsibility for the health and safety of children and staff, but there should be clear reporting responsibilities” (Tassoni et al, 2010).
Using Risk Assessments are an excellent way in reducing the risks of accidents. This is a process of identifying a risk and recording items that reduce this risk to an absolute minimum. A popular method of producing a Risk Assessment is to score the risk from 1-5, record actions that will reduce the risk, and then to re-score the risk after applying these actions. All Risk Assessments should be updated regularly so that the identified risk/s are monitored and remain safe for all those who use the setting.
The age, development and capabilities of children should always be considered as each individual child is different and all develop at their own pace. A child who is two would not have progressed to the rate of a three or four year old. Therefore, it is important to plan activities wisely in order for children of all ages and capabilities to reach their highest capabilities.
All settings must follow the welfare requirements set down in the EYFS, which are to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. To promote good health of the children and take necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection. Take appropriate action when they are ill and to manage behaviour effectively and in a manner appropriate for their stage of development and particular individual needs. These are legal requirements and must be followed carefully in all settings.
Children with specific learning difficulties or physical disabilities should have activities they can take part in where they can learn and also enjoy. These children should always have full access to the building and all indoor and outdoor activities. This could include the use of mechanical/electronic lifts and ramps. Access to disabled toilets are vital when considering accessibility of the building. Staff training must include for the use of toilets by disabled people.
Each setting should have a safe reliable security system to maintain childrens safety and welfare. The use of a password for each child could be adopted. Only authorised adults should know the password and it should be changed on a regular basis. This is to ensure that no one but the parent or an authorized person can pick the child or young person up. Routine check of security should be made daily such as, entry phones, locks, visitor books, signing in or out and name badges should all be checked to control entry and exit at all times.
Having a clean and safe environment is vital. Toys and all equipment should be checked regularly to ensure there are no sharp edges or they are broken. If a toy is broken this is disposed of if not fixable. Surfaces should be clean for the children and all dangerous substances, cleaning products are locked away (COSSH, 2002). Toilets should be checked to keep them clean and replace toilet roll or hand wash if needed, this will prevent the risk of infection.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn e.g. gloves and apron when preparing snacks, changing nappies and dealing with a bloody wound. This is also to prevent the risk of infection. Children should always be prompted to wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating or when they are just filthy which stops the spread of all the germs. All food and drink in the setting should be in date and stored at the correct temperature and also prepared hygienically. Allergy control must always be obeyed and in my setting we have a no nut policy, which helps prevent against serious allergic reaction.
All staff will have their Disclosure Barring Services (DBS) checks and are responsible to update them when needed to. All children should have an individual child check to explore the progress of a child to ensure they have reached their milestones. This check also helps to get to know the child independently. Reporting all accidents and injuries (RIDDOR, 1995) to the accident book is always important so we can always notify the parent or career of the accident. When considering medication it is essential that the precise dosage amounts are written down by the parent and given to staff.
This should also include for the correct storage of the medication giving consideration to temperature etc. etc. When a child is given medication it is essential to note down the time when given to the child to ensure against double doses are administered. First aid boxes should always be on premises in case of accident or injury. Not all settings are built for the purpose of a childcare setting so planning should take into account the way in which the setting should function as a safe and healthy environment. As part of our duty of care, a child’s health and safety should be the overriding principle when planning activities.
Safety is a basic human need, a safe environment is one in which the child or adult has a low risk of becoming injured or ill. When working with children it is vital you know how to provide a healthy safe environment, but also to monitor and maintain the environment. When monitoring the environment it is vital we carry out Risk Assessments daily, this is a process in which we identify any risks and find ways to prevent that risk to a minimum. Policies and procedures are put into place to make clear what the setting intends to do and how they intend to keep their environment as safe as possible, for all children and staff members. There are times when, for safety reasons, everyone must follow directions and do as they are asked, to reduce the risk to themselves, peers and the practitioners.
All members of staff including new staff, supply staff, students and volunteers must be made aware of the contents of the schools health and safety policies. This is to ensure every member of staff are aware of what rules to follow, which helps to maintain health and safety in the setting. One of the main reasons for maintaining a safe environment is accident prevention. All settings should monitor its health and safety, and the environment is regularly checked (both before and during activities) to ensure that it is both healthy and safe for adults and children. Children should be supervised at all times and that there is adequate adult supervision for any activities that are to be undertaken.
The number of adults needed to be present, will depend on the number of children taking part, the age of those children involved, and the type of activity planned. This is so we can monitor the children and keep them as safe as possible. Checking the outdoor area, entering the building, checking that the equipment is safe to use, safety of children, safety in all areas of play (both indoor and external), kitchen/food preparation, toilets, fire drill etc. etc. Using a process for monitoring, which includes following a routine that if it is working correctly then continue.
However, if something is working incorrectly then change or adapt the routine as needed.
When arriving at work before the children arrive, risk assessments are carried out both indoors and outdoors, checking the equipment is safe to use. Toilets also need to be regularly checked to ensure they are safe to use. The kitchen is regularly checked to ensure it is safe for staff to prepare food but also to check that all cooking facilities are switched off if not in use. A first aid box should always be kept so it is visible for all staff to see in the event of an emergency. First Aid boxes should also be checked to ensure the correct equipment is stocked up if required.
Routine safety checks should be made daily on premises both indoors and outdoors. Every morning in the setting staff will carry out what is called a Risk Assessment of both areas to identify and risks with any any potential risks removed. A Risk Assessment is a useful tool in helping us to significantly reduce the likelihood of any accidents and injury when working with children or young people. A Risk Assessment can help to alert staff and children to potential dangers and suggests sensible measures which will reduce the potential risk of that danger causing harm or injury. Risk Assessments are a vital part of both maintaining and monitoring the Health and Safety in every setting.
The management of health and safety at work regulations 1999 (originally 1992)(in England , Wales and Scotland) have had a major impact on the ways in which we control health and safety standards. Employees must undertake a range of tasks including Risk Assessments, making arrangements for the planning, organization, control, monitoring and review of health and safety measures. Employees must always establish emergency procedures, providing the right health and safety information and all the correct training.
Policies and procedures play a huge part in making people aware of the rules and the potential dangers of hazards. In my setting we have our policies and procedures displayed on the walls so it is easily seen by parents and visitors, which allows them to recognize that we follow them correctly. Posters are a good way of getting children to understand the potential of risks and hazards. It is vital our children have some knowledge of what is safe and what is not safe, with large pictures helping to point them out. We are encouraged to work as safely as possible by following the settings policies and procedures. Working in a team and sharing information helps to ensure and maintain a safe environment for all to enjoy.
1.3 Workplace’s policies and procedures:
Guidance is not law and is not compulsory; however there are many different sources of guidance that a setting can use in order to plan a healthy and safe environment.
1.3.1 Risk Assessments
Risk Assessments are a legal requirement mainly under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, although most health and safety legislation requires a risk assessment approach. Risk Assessments must be recorded and should be assessed periodically in instances such as; following an accident, on the introduction of any new process/equipment and also any change in circumstances. Educational visits also require a written Risk Assessment. There is a folder of the most frequently used venues in the staff room, containing Risk Assessments.
There is also a folder containing Risk Assessments for each group in the same place. All staff and group leaders must ensure that they have read these documents before embarking on a trip and must sign to acknowledge this each time they take pupils on a trip as part of the signing out procedure. Shown below are the names of the staff assisting with the assessment process as well as details on when they will be carried out and our updating systems.
Even in a safety conscious environment accidents may still occur. This is how we deal with them. All accidents to our staff or pupils will be recorded and investigated, as appropriate to find out what happened and how any similar incident can be avoided. Under the First Aid at Work Regulations 1981, employers have to ensure that there are adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities for providing first aid in the workplace. This should include arrangements for first aid based on a Risk Assessment of the school.
1.3.3 Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – Relates to all different types of work related issues and they cover all aspects of health and safety in different environments such as accidents, hazardous substances, ill health, Risk Assessments, protective equipment, welfare facilities, first aid and occupational health. The main aim through the guidance of the HSE, whatever environment or industry, is to help people understand the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to help people comply with the law. It should be noted that the HSE are also an organisation that provides help and guidance and can be contacted to answer questions of support.
Every setting should have a copy of the latest legalisation and guidance documents relevant to their service. Health and safety legalisation and policy aims to make sure that all workers, children, young people and families are safe and protected from harm when in or using services. Some examples of these legislations relating to health and safety in the child care setting can be seen overleaf:
1.3.4 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Employers have duty to make your workplace as safe as possible, every setting should display a health and safety law poster or supply employees with a leaflet with the same information, which are available from the HSE. All employees need to decide how to manage health and safety; if the setting has more than five employees, this must appear on a written health and safety policy. Employees also have the duty to work safely and if you are given guidance about how to use equipment, you must follow that guidance. An example of a type of guidance is ‘Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992)’, which covers how to lift heavy objects in the correct manner.
This guidance includes information such as lifting the weight with your feet apart, knees bent and back upright, use both hands to ensure a secure hold, keep your shoulders level, your back upright and slowly straighten your legs. To put down the load, take the weight on the legs by bending the knees. We follow this every day in our setting before the children arrive. When we are setting up for the day, this involves carrying heavy objects from the shed and taking them inside, lifting heavy tables and moving them. As practitioners it is important to follow this to reduce risk to yourself.
1.3.5 C0SSH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) 2002 To have a safe workplace you will need to carefully use and store cleaning materials like bleach and disinfectant and other potentially hazardous substances. Items such as bleach, anti-bacteria wipes, some solvent glues and other materials in the setting that can be toxic. You should have Risk Assessments that informs you about these dangers and what to do to minimise the risk involved. Any new member of staff should be made aware of what to do in every circumstance. Every work place should have a COSSH file which lists all the hazardous substances used in the setting. The file should detail such information: where they are kept;
how they are labelled;
the maximum amount of time it’s safe to be exposed to them; and how to deal with an emergency involving one of them.
Never mix any products together as they could produce toxic fumes. Some bleaches and cleaning products, for instance have this effect. In our setting all our cleaning products are kept in the kitchen (where children are not allowed) in a high cupboard that only staff members can reach.
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