An accident is an adverse event that is unintended, unplanned or unexpected; it may lead to an injury or an emergency situation. But just because something happens that is unplanned, does not mean that it is unplanned for! In responding to accidents and emergencies, planning is essential.

General rules

  • Prevention is always better than cure
  • If an accident happens, stay calm
  • Follow practiced procedures/protocols
  • Report, investigate and review
  • Manage any long-term effects

1. Prevention

Risk assessments may be time consuming but they are vital to prevent accidents and injuries. Make sure that you have undertaken thorough risk assessments of all areas of your work including play areas, outdoor spaces, kitchens, general workspaces, trips and visits, etc. Having risk assessments not only helps to minimise accidents, but also helps prove that you have done everything in your power to prevent them.

A risk assessment should:

  • Identify any risk or hazard: where is it and what is it?
  • Determine who is at risk and how: e.g. cooks at risk of scalds
  • Evaluate the level of risk and decide whether it can be eliminated (e.g. remove a trailing wire), or if not, what you can do to minimise or control it?
  • Record your findings in electronic or paper form
  • Monitoring and review your risk assessments regularly

2. If the worst happens - stay calm

The first rule in dealing with any emergency situation is to stay calm and don’t panic, and encourage others to do the same. In an emergency situation, your body reacts by going into survival/fight-or-flight mode. It prepares by overproducing cortisol, which can reduce your critical thinking and increase your emotional response, so your ability to make effective, critically-thought-through judgements fades, which could cost lives. Deep breathing, systematic tensing and releasing of muscles, and slow counting, are all ways that can help you regain a calm and clear head.

3. Follow practiced procedures/protocols

Having procedures/protocols to follow in the event of an accident or injury is essential for all nursery settings. You must ensure that your staff know what to do and have practiced for any potential eventualities. It is your legal responsibility to do so, or you could be held negligent in a court of law.

One article cannot advise you what to do in every emergency situation – each setting is different, has different staff with varying expertise and qualifications, so it’s important to write your own specific procedures and protocols for dealing with each event.

You should consider including:

  • serious injury to a pupil or member of staff (e.g. burn, fall, transport accident)
  • missing children
  • damage to premises or property (e.g. fire or flood)
  • criminal activity (e.g. intruder or bomb threat)
  • severe weather (e.g. snow or flooding)
  • public health incidents (e.g. flu pandemic)
  • local community disaster

Your plans should cover procedures for incidents that might occur during and outside your normal operating hours, including weekends and holidays if these will affect your ability to operate, and any extended services you run such as early/late hours or holiday activities.

Protocols should be clear and in a step-by-step format including:

  • How to make the area safe to prevent further harm
  • The process for calling the emergency services
  • The person responsible for administering first aid – you should always have a trained first aider on site but what will you do if they are late/stuck in traffic etc?
  • The roles that people will undertake in the event of an emergency – e.g. managing the response/carrying out required tasks
  • The process for informing relevant parents/carers or next of kin
  • The procedure for managing information to parents/carers, the community, social media and perhaps, to outside reporters and journalistsAt all stages, identify who is responsible – this might be a named person or an identified role, e.g. “the duty first aider”. However, if you identify a role rather than a person, you need to keep and display prominently, the name of the said “duty first aider” for each day.It is also important to consult with any governing of advisory board you may have, to gain their support for your plans, and to publish them so that all members of your team know how to respond or where to find the protocol information.

    It is then vital that you regularly practice each emergency plan so that you are well prepared if the worst happens. If you discover something is not working as well as it should, then change your protocols to improve them.

4. Report, investigate and review

There is a statutory duty in the UK to keep records of accident and injuries. This could be in an accident report book, and you should clearly record the details of the accident, what happened, who dealt with it and what actions were taken. You can then make investigations and changes to your risk assessments and protocols where necessary.

In addition, you must report all serious incidents to the governing country. For example, in England, Ofsted-registered childminders, nannies and nurseries must report all serious accidents, injuries and illness to Ofsted and other local child protection agencies. This includes child death. In addition, RIDDOR requires you to report all injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences in the workplace.

5. Manage long-term effects

Finally, assess any longer-term needs following an incident. This may mean looking at the mental health of affected people and offering counselling or trauma services to manage any detrimental effects following an event.

For more information:


Basic first aid procedure

In an emergency, you should remember to go through the primary survey which you can remember by using the mnemonic, DR ABC.

D – Danger – check for danger and make sure it is safe to approach

R – Response – check if the casualty is responsive

A – Airways – make sure their airways are clear

B – Breathing – check for signs of breathing

C – Circulation – check their pulse, check for bleeding and either try to stop the bleeding or put the person into the recovery position

You should call the emergency services on 999 as soon as you can. If there are other people around, ask them to call for you whilst you administer the basic first aid.

A more detailed reminder of these can be found on the St John’s Ambulance website or the Scottish NHS first aid site.

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