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Key health and safety tips for childcare workers

These health and safety tips provide general information on ways to manage the most common hazards and risks in your industry. By following this guidance you will be going a long way to effectively managing health and safety in your workplace. However, every workplace is different and you must not take this information as being all that you need to do.

General
Biological hazards
Cytomegalovirus
Emergency preparedness and response

Equipment
Hazardous substances
Manual tasks
Occupational stress
Occupational violence
Personal Protective Equipment
Slips, trips and falls

General
Activities/instructions More information

  • Find out unsafe or unhealthy problems in your workplace
  • Decide what is highest risk and needs to be fixed first, and how to go about fixing it
  • Take action to fix the unsafe or unhealthy workplace problems
  • Check the problems are fixed and won’t happen again
  • Implement a site-specific health and safety induction
  • Implement specific training to do work safely
  • Make sure personal protective equipment (PPE) is used, where provided.
Biological hazards
Activities/instructions More information

  • Implement an occupational immunisation program (refer to the current edition of the Australian Immunisation Handbook).
  • Immunise workers in accordance with immunisation recommendations for childcare workers (hepatitis A, adult pertussis booster (whooping cough) chickenpox (if not immune) and 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella).
  • Wash their hands regularly including before food preparation, after contact with blood and body fluids and after removing PPE.
  • Wear disposable gloves for all contact with blood and body substances.
  • Exclude children and staff with contagious infectious diseases in accordance with recommended minimum exclusion periods.
  • Maintain high standards of hygiene and cleanliness.
  • Implement hygienic nappy changing and toileting practices.
  • Clean up blood and body fluid spills promptly.
  • Train workers in infection control and hygiene practices.
  • Inform workers about infectious diseases that can be harmful during pregnancy and how to protect against infection.
  • Seek advice from Health Queensland if there is an outbreak of an infectious disease at the centre.

Cytomegalovirus
Activities/instructions More information

  • Wash their hands regularly, especially after contact with urine and saliva and after removing disposable gloves.
  • Use disposable gloves (e.g. latex or vinyl) for activities that involve contact with urine and saliva.
  • Cover cuts with water-resistant dressings.
  • Provide information to workers about CMV risks during pregnancy and work practices to reduce the risk of infection. Keep training records.
  • Regularly clean surfaces and items that are soiled with urine and saliva, including nappy change mats, potties and toys.
  • Implement hygienic nappy changing and toileting practices
  • Instruct workers to inform their employer if they are pregnant or expect to become pregnant.
  • Advise workers to discuss CMV risks with their doctor if pregnant or planning pregnancy.
  • Consider relocating workers who are pregnant, or who expect to become pregnant, to care for children aged over two years of age.
Emergency preparedness and response
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make fire extinguishers available and ensure testing is current.
  • Make sure an emergency plan covering a range of emergencies such as fire and chemical spills, is available.
  • Brief workers on emergency evacuation plan.

Equipment
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure relevant equipment (such as playground equipment, including soft fall material) complies with the relevant Australian Standard, when purchased.
  • Inspect equipment regularly and maintain these in good condition.
  • Repair or dispose of equipment that is damaged or no longer safe to use.
  • Use equipment only for intended purpose.
  • Make sure the support poles of playground equipment and sun shade cloth are padded if a risk assessment shows that they could cause injury to children.
  • Make sure shelving is secure and not overloaded.
  • Make sure equipment, such as televisions are secure and will not topple over.
  • Make sure guards (where fitted) are in place when equipment is in use.
  • Insert power point covers into power outlets that are within children’s reach.
Hazardous chemicals
Activities/instructions More information

  • Do not store chemicals in food or drink containers.
  • Keep chemicals out of the reach of children and unauthorised persons.
  • Make Safety Data Sheets (SDS) available for substances classified as hazardous.
  • Read the label and MSDS and follow relevant instructions.
  • Label chemical containers.
  • Conduct risk assessments for hazardous chemicals and implement safe work practices for their handling and use.
Manual tasks
Activities/instructions More information

  • For work involving hard physical effort:
    • organise work to reduce the physical force needed to lift, carry, move, hold or restrain items, such as positioning items as close as possible to where work is done
    • provide, use and maintain adequate mechanical and assistive devices, such as trolleys, to minimise effort
    • where possible, make sure flooring does not impede the use of wheeled equipment.
  • For work involving awkward working positions, workers should:
    • work in the straightest forward facing position
    • work with their arms close to their body not reaching away or overhead
    • vary their position frequently, don’t stand, sit, kneel or squat for long periods
    • minimise bending and over reaching, by, for example, adjusting working platforms (such as change tables) for different working heights, installing and encouraging toddlers to use purpose-built stairs to change tables, storing frequently used items between hip and shoulder height, and providing adult sized chairs and tables for workers in children’s areas.
  • For work that is highly repetitive or involves tasks of long duration, workers should:
    • take regular breaks
    • work at a slower pace for tasks repeated frequently or done for long periods
    • use vary work duties or working positions for example, alternate between standing and sitting activities
    • change work practices or obtain equipment to avoid repetitive actions or prolonged tasks.
  • Instruct all workers clearly and ensure they have been trained to perform the task safely.

Occupational stress
Activities/instructions More information

  • Assign appropriate amounts of work to workers.
  • Monitor work demands and control over work.
  • Provide support systems for talking about difficult situations at work.
  • Provide clear work structures, particularly through times of change.
  • Recognise and reward workers.
Occupational violence
Activities/instructions More information

  • Keep control measures in place to manage any specific risks associated with children with challenging behaviours.
  • Implement adequate hand-over practices.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use PPE appropriate to the level of risk.
Personal Protective Equipment
Activities/instructions More information

  • Provide and instruct workers to use PPE, where identified through risk assessment, company policy or manufacturers’ instructions, e.g. use of latex gloves.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use low protein, powder-free latex gloves to reduce the risk of latex allergy.
  • Provide and instruct workers to use non-latex gloves for activities that do not involve contact with blood and body fluids.
Slips, trips and falls
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure contaminants and spills on the floor are cleaned up or removed promptly.
  • Use slip-resistant flooring in areas likely to become wet or contaminated.
  • Ensure regular and adequate cleaning of floors.
  • Keep working areas clear and tidy.
  • Maintain floor surfaces in a good order (e.g. free from holes, curled carpet edges etc).
  • Make sure walkways are adequately lit and clear of clutter.
  • Consider the physical characteristics of people and the activity being undertaken.
  • Ensure footwear is suitable for the type of work and work environment.



Last updated 12 February 2013