WA Regulatory Authority prosecution reminds services to keep children safe from sun
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers across Western Australia have been reminded of the importance of ensuring children are adequately protected from the sun and the heating effect that it has on playground surfaces and equipment following a case which saw more than $14,000 in penalties applied.
The Department of Communities, which serves as WA’s regulatory authority for ECEC, brought the case before the State Administrative Tribunal, which resulted in the Tribunal finding that an ECEC operator had breached Section 167(1) of the National Law for failure to protect children from harm and hazard, imposing a penalty of $14,500 and $2,000 in legal costs.
As a result, the Education and Care Regulatory Unit’s on-site compliance checks during the summer months will focus on ensuring that play surfaces, play equipment and walkways are checked regularly on hot days to ensure children are not injured, Brad Jolly, Assistant Director General, Commissioning and Sector Engagement for the Department of Communities said.
The breach related to an incident on 2 December 2019, when a child under three years of age sustained burns to their foot whilst playing in the service’s outdoor area. The maximum temperature in Perth on the day of the incident was 35.8°C.
Around 12:15 pm the child, along with an educator and a small group of peers, was taken to an outside area, without shoes. The educator who was supervising the group was attending to another child at the time of the incident, and did not see how the injury occurred.
The burns were significant enough that they required medical treatment, with a subsequent investigation carried out by the Department of Communities finding that the child’s burns may have been caused by the child coming into contact with the hot outdoor synthetic lawn, rubber soft-fall or metal play equipment, all of which were exposed to direct sunlight at the time of incident.
“Childcare operators and staff must remain vigilant and alert during high-risk times of the year and take every reasonable precaution to mitigate the risks identified at their premises,” Mr Jolly said.
“This includes training all staff to ensure adequate supervision, thorough risk assessments and staff communication.”
For further information about the dangers posed to children from soft fall surfaces in high temperatures, please see here.