Emergency drill incident prompts warning from WA regulatory authority on hot surfaces
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in Western Australia have again been reminded about the danger of children in bare feet on hot surfaces following the second case brought to the attention of the State Administrative Tribunal by the Department of Communities in Western Australia.
A major ECEC provider was taken to the tribunal in relation to the incident, which took place 2 December 2019, resulting in the Tribunal finding that the provider had breached Section 167(1) of the National Law for failure to protect from harm and hazard, imposing a penalty of $15,000 and $2,000 costs.
In this instance, three children sustained severe burns to their feet whilst taking part in an emergency evacuation fire drill at the service on a day which had a maximum temperature of 35.8°C in Perth.
Two of the three children required hospital treatment as a consequence of the drill, which was conducted at 2:30pm, at which time several children aged between 18 and 36 months commenced the fire drill not wearing shoes or socks having recently woken from their afternoon naps.
A Department of Communities investigation found that the temperature of the outdoor ground covering (predominantly synthetic lawn and soft fall material) at the premises, located in an office building in Perth’s central business district, may have contributed to the burns suffered by the children.
The operator of the service was noted for the “genuine remorse and contrition” shown in relation to the incident and has taken extensive steps to ensure the children at the service and their families were well.
A number of changes have taken place across all services operated by the provider, to ensure the issue does not recur.
“This is the second childcare service operator to be brought before the State Administrative Tribunal following a child being burnt by hot outdoor surfaces,” said Brad Jolly, Assistant Director General, Commissioning and Sector Engagement for the Department of Communities.
Mr Jolly urged operators to “take this as a strong reminder” that they must have clear procedures in place so that play surfaces, play equipment, and walkways are checked regularly on hot days to ensure children are not injured.
Some materials used in outdoor matting and playground equipment “can get very hot, very quickly and can remain hot for some hours,” Mr Jolly said, again reminding operators that this aspect of compliance will remain a focus for the Department as the country moves into warmer months.
Full details of the hearing are available via the Department of Communities enforcement action site, here.