The safety of the children in our care is the most important thing that we are responsible for as early years practitioners. Yes, we are following the EYFS and of course we are looking to enrich the lives of our children through education and experience, but if we don’t look out for the safety of the children, then it could all be for nothing. Settings are required by law to look out for their children, to make sure their premises are safe, and to ensure that there is adequate supervision of children at all times. We are, or should be, constantly training and re-training our staff to look out for risk and to minimise it without interfering with the natural development of the child. We are not in the business of eliminating risk completely, which can put the child at greater risk in the future if they cannot recognise or identify risks for themselves, but we are in the business of preventing accidents.
Child Safety Week can remind us to keep our training up-to-date, review safeguarding and accident policies and to raise awareness of child safety with our parents and carers so that they are also informed about the latest child safety advice.
Accidents or ‘unintentional injuries’ are one of the main causes of premature death and illness in children in the UK. In England alone, 60 children under the age of 5, die each year from injuries they sustain in and around the home. These account for 1 in 12 deaths of children aged 1 – 4. Accidents at home among under-fives also result in 450,00 visits to A&E departments and 40,000 emergency hospital admissions in England each year, with children from the most disadvantaged families being more likely to be killed or seriously injured due to accidents. Statistically, children from the most deprived areas have hospital admission rates 45% higher than children from the least deprived areas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most accidents involving young children occur when the children are at home and may not be under the same amount of scrutiny as when they are in your setting. Most accidents with children occur between late afternoon and early evening, in the summer, during school holidays and at weekends. The places they happen are also important, with the largest number of accidents happening in the living/dining room but the most serious ones occurring in the kitchen or on the stairs.
Why do accidents happen?
According to RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), and contrary to the well-known idiom, “accidents DON’T have to happen” but we do need to be educated and take action to prevent them. Since we know most accidents occur when children are at home, we also have a responsibility to educate the parents/carers about how to prevent accidents too.
A number of factors have been identified as increasing the risk of accidents, including:
- Stress, a death in the family or chronic illness
- Homelessness or moving home
- Changes of routine or unfamiliar situations
- When people are in a hurry, or are distracted
- Inadequate supervision
Child Safety Week
Child Safety Week is run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) and is an annual community education campaign serving as the catalyst for starting thousands of conversations about child safety across the country. This year, it runs from 6th to 12th June, so why not use the week to encourage a greater dialogue between your setting and your parents/carers about child safety?
The theme for this year is “Safety in mind” and CAPT want to make sure that families who are busy and under pressure, always put the safety of their children first. They recognise that it’s easy to metaphorically ‘take your eye of the ball’ especially during difficult times, so they are using the week to remind everyone that child safety is the most important thing.
Factsheet and free resources
- Between the CAPT website and the RoSPA website, there are a whole host of free and downloadable resources to help get the message across including:
- Factsheets and activity sheets for parents
- Translations of factsheets in 5 languages including Urdu, Bengali, Panjabi, Polish and Arabic
- A Child Safety Week information pack
- Logos, banners and social media information
- An engaging video call “Five Quid Kids” about what children would do with £5
- A series of session plans to help you run engaging workshops for parents on 8 of the most common types of accidents including:
o Burns and scalds
o Choking and strangulation
o Water safety
o Road safety
o Button batteries
o Fire safety
Times change and the risks that our children face change with them. Everyone working with children should ensure that they keep up-to-date with the latest threats so it’s a good idea to sign up to receive updates and the latest news.
Did you and your parents know for example, some of the most recent threats come from button batteries and small magnets which can kills children if they swallow them? E-cigarettes have been developed in the last 20 years and also present a serious risk to children which may not be fully appreciated by adults who use them. Toys and games can also be hazardous, especially since the UK left the European Union and legislation on standards for toys and games has changed. And do your parents know about the risk of giving whole grapes, hotdogs or mini-eggs to children? They are about the same diameter as young children’s airways and/or can be difficult to chew and swallow, leading to a choking risk. You can follow CAPT via Facebook and Twitter to get the latest advice for families that you can then share.
For the majority of parents/carers, their children are the most important thing in their lives, and it is not through a lack of concern that accidents happen, but it can be through a lack of education. That’s where your interactions with parents, and campaigns like Child Safety Week can make all the difference.
And whatever you do, do these!
- Review and revise your own setting’s safety practices and policies
- Raise awareness of the issues with your staff and trainees
- Engage your parents in discussions and link them up to the RoSPA and CAPT sites
- Make sure your staff are aware of the different risks associated with children’s ages and stages of development
- Make sure your staff have read and understand “Unintentional injuries prevention in children under 5”
References and more information