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Risk Management in UK Early Years Setting

June 7, 2019 9:52 am
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Manage Risks in your Nursery as there is no such thing as a risk-free environment…

The formative years of a child’s development are the most important. It’s during this period that they acquire core skills that will assist them throughout their schooling years and into adulthood. For this reason, the learning environment they’re in should nurture them, allowing them to grow in a safe space.

As Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) childcare providers, we’ve taken on the responsibility to ensure that every child under our care is provided with that environment. A large part of this is ensuring that the area where we care for them and teach them is as safe as can be.

This fact is highlighted throughout the EYFS Statutory Framework and is broken down into two circumstances when risks and hazards should be assessed.

The Framework states that risks should be assessed:

  • For each type of outing
  • For outdoor and indoor spaces, furniture, toys, and equipment

Assessing Risk for Outings

According to the EYFS Statutory Framework, EYFS childcare providers should complete a full risk assessment for each outing they undertake before embarking on it. The statutory framework is quite explicit that an assessment doesn’t need to be completed every time you go on an outing or trip, but rather for every type of excursion you’ll embark on. For example, you’ll conduct a full risk assessment for each of the following: a visit to the swimming pool, park, and beach etc. However, you don’t need to carry out a full risk assessment prior to each outing. It is a sound practice, however, to conduct a full risk assessment for each age group on the trip and includes variants for the time of day and weather wherever applicable.

Lastly, your risk assessment should cover the ratio of children to adults that will make it safe to embark on, as well as the safety measures you’ve taken.

Nursery Resources has made a Risk Assesment Template Record specifically for use outside of the setting, allowing you to easily be able to demonstrate how you are managing the risks in the outside environment – Outdoor Risk Assesment Record.

Assessing Risk on your Premises

It is good practice to complete a full risk assessment on your premises at least once a year, and more frequently if anything changes. However, for areas on the premises that pose a greater risk (including the equipment), you should periodically conduct a full risk assessment.

As a provider, you should keep a record of the aspects that have been reviewed, when the assessment took place, and who performed it. It’s also advisable to record this in writing. Not only is this good practice, but you may find yourself in trouble with Ofsted if you don’t have a written record of the completed assessment.

View a full sample of this general Risk Assessment Record Book here, and if you feel any amendments could be made to the template to better suit your setting then you can do this free of charge by simply getting in touch.

The Difference Between Risks and Hazards

When you’re conducting a risk assessment, you’ll need to evaluate risks and hazards. Many providers confuse the two, which could result in taking inappropriate or infrequent action. This brief description should help you to understand the two.

Hazard: a hazard is an object, activity or item that could cause harm or endanger a child or adult using your facilities. For example, electricity, open drawers, chemicals, appliances etc. can all be hazards.

Risk: A risk, on the other hand, is a chance – high or low – that someone could be injured by a hazard and would include the details of the severity of the injury caused by the hazard.

Recording Risks and Hazards: The Five Steps to a Dynamic and Balanced-Risk Assessment

There are a number of templates and versions of risk assessments available. Regardless of the format of your risk assessment, these steps will help you to create a balanced and versatile risk assessment for use in your nursery or preschool.

Step 1: Identify: Identify Risks and Hazards

Begin by conducting a risk assessment on your premises. Start indoors, making your way through each area or room in your nursery and recording the hazards. Move on to the outdoor facilities and record the hazards present on the property and in the immediate vicinity. Finally, create a record detailing hazards (known and possible hazards) for each outing or excursion you’ve planned for the year.

When creating a list of hazards and risks for excursions you should contemplate enlisting the help of another staff member, or even someone at the premises like a manager etc. to give you greater detail about the hazards on their property and what risk these hazards pose.

Step 2: Ascertain: Determine Who Is At Risk and How They May Be Affected

Once you have a comprehensive list of the hazards on your premises and hazards you’re likely to encounter when on a specific outing, determine, through careful evaluation, who is likely to be at risk and what those risks will be. How might those at risk be affected?

Step 3: Check: Evaluate the Risks and Decide on Precautions

Once you’ve formulated a complete list of risks, decide on the steps you’ll take to avoid them. Depending on the age group of the children, you should consider including them in minimising risk. This way, your staff and the children in their care know, for example, not to pat any dogs when going to the park because they could be bitten.

Other precautions you may consider implementing could be getting parents involved with expressing the dangers to their children of various activities, especially when that activity is happening outside of the home. For example, in addition to you talking to children about the dangers of talking to strangers, encourage parents to discuss this with their children as well on a consistent basis.

Step 4: Act: Record Your Findings and Implement Them

Once you have a complete list of hazards, risks and precautions, you should record your findings on the appropriate assessment sheet, and then focus on implementing these. It’s important that you encourage staff involvement in implementing the precautions, and ensure that they have the knowledge about the possible hazards, what is required of them, and what actions they should take if anyone has been affected. It may help to role-play so that staff have a visual reference. You could even organise a trip for staff to the planned destination before taking children there so staff can visually evaluate the hazards.

Step 5: Examine: Monitor and Review as Often as Possible

As hazards and risks are constantly changing, you should always go back and review your assessments. The assessments may also need to change for each age group in addition to each outing. If you’ve neglected a risk or hazard, or a staff member has discovered further hazards or thought of additional risks, add those to your records so you’re constantly improving your health and safety methods.

This risk assessment record has been created to be used as it is, but it can also be amended to suit your requirements if you feel it is necessary.

***These are only guidelines that are the basis of more elaborate procedures that should take place. However, these basic steps should help with the risk assessment at your nursery.

To guarantee that you’re compliant with both the framework and the more specific Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Childcare Act 2006 you should make safety a mindset at your facility.***