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New policy position on safety in children's environments

2 December 2019

The Education Standards Board has approved a policy position on what it considers to be ‘reasonable precautions’ required by approved providers to protect children from harm.

Ensuring that ‘every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and hazard likely to cause injury’ is a requirement of s. 167 of the Education and Care Services National Law.

The board has provided clearer guidance to people building new services or undertaking major upgrades of existing services.

The following applies to all new service approvals from 1 November 2019:

Children under three and small objects

Children under three should not have access to small objects (of a size that presents a choking hazard) in their indoor or outdoor environment. This includes mulch and stones.

Kidsafe and ACECQA both publish information sheets on the value of outside play spaces and safety considerations. The ACECQA information sheet on babies and outdoor play recommends that anything smaller than a D-size battery is a choking risk.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also provides guidance on buying safe toys and making a DIY safety tool for checking the size of small objects.

Finger guards on hinged doors

SA Health has advised us of severe injuries to children’s fingers in education and care services.

There have been several amputations and a larger number of crushing injuries.

These can be prevented by fitting finger guards to the hinge edges of doors that may be accessed by children. Sliding doors can be fitted with stoppers that prevent the door being shut on a hand.

We have also seen an alternative hinge arrangement used on children’s toilet doors, creating a larger gap to prevent fingers being caught in the hinge side.

Making self-closing doors safe

Doors that children may access must be self-closing, adjusted to a slow close using a cushioning device. This allows children time to react.

In high traffic areas, doors should be able to be fixed in an open position by use of mechanical means, for example a cabin hook or drop bolt.

Doors that rely on the cushioning device to hold the door open can be blown shut by a strong breeze.