SA Regulatory Authority updates position on safety in children’s environments
South Australia’s Regulatory Authority, the Education Standards Board (ESB), has issued an updated policy position on safety in children’s environments, replacing the one previously issued on 2 December 2019.
The ESB has approved a policy position on what it considers to be “reasonable precautions” required by approved providers to protect children from harm, with specific additions relating to children under two years of age and small objects, self-closing doors and hinged doors.
Ensuring that “every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and hazard likely to cause injury” is a requirement of s. 167 of the Education and Care Services National Law, the ESB noted.
In pursuit of compliance with this regulation, the ESB has provided clearer guidance to people building new services or undertaking major upgrades of existing services, with the following information applying to all new service approvals from 1 November 2019.
Children under two years of age and small objects
“Children under two should not have access to small objects (ie: of a size that presents a choking hazard) in outdoor play spaces,” the ESB said, clarifying that this direction includes mulch, bark chips and stones.
“Kidsafe and ACECQA both publish information sheets on the value of outside play spaces and safety considerations,” the spokesperson continued, noting that the ACECQA information sheet on babies and outdoor play recommends that anything smaller than a D-size battery is a choking risk.
Finger guards on hinged doors
SA Health has advised the ESB of severe injuries to children’s fingers in education and care services, noting that there have been several amputations and a larger number of crushing injuries as a result of hinged doors.
“These (injuries) can be prevented by fitting finger guards to the hinge edges of doors that may be accessed by children,” the ESB said. “Sliding doors can be fitted with stoppers that prevent the door being shut on a hand.”
Finger guards are required on the hinged side of the door/gate and may also be required on the unhinged side depending on the risk to children.
An alternative hinge arrangement has also been used on children’s toilet doors in some services, creating a larger gap to prevent fingers being caught in the hinge side.
Making self-closing doors safe
Doors that children may access must be self-closing, the ESB said, adjusted to a slow close using a cushioning device. This allows children time to react and avoid injury.
“In high traffic areas, doors should be able to be fixed in an open position by use of mechanical means, for example a cabin hook or drop bolt,” the ESB clarified.
Doors that rely on the cushioning device to hold the door open can be blown shut by a strong breeze, and should be avoided.
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