$90,000 fine for childcare where child was found unconscious
The Sector > Quality > Compliance > $90,000 penalty for major ECEC provider after child is found unconscious

$90,000 penalty for major ECEC provider after child is found unconscious

by Freya Lucas

September 01, 2023

A large early childhood education and care provider has been fined $90,000 in relation to an incident which occurred in September 2022 where a child was strangled by a skipping rope caught around their neck at a service in Western Australia.


The State Administrative Tribunal found that the provider had contravened section 165(1) of the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012 by failing to ensure that all children being educated and cared for by the service were adequately supervised at all times, and section 167(1) of the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012 (National Law) by failing to ensure that every reasonable precaution was taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury.


A $50,000 penalty was applied for the first contravention, with the remaining $40,000 applied to the second. The provider was also ordered to contribute to the legal costs of the regulatory authority in the amount of $2,000.


Poorly supervised outdoor play


On the day of the incident – 8 September 2022, at approximately 3pm, a three year old child was playing with peers outside, with a variety of resources available to facilitate play, including skipping ropes. 


Access to and use of skipping ropes had not been identified as posing any hazard. 


The child who was later found unconscious was playing with another child on a slide with a skipping rope which the pair tied to a beam above the top of the slide. At some point in time the skipping rope went around the child’s neck. 


At around 3:09pm the child went down the slide with the rope around their neck. At around 3:11pm, the other child involved in the play called to the single educator supervising the area from a position where she could not see the slide and pointed to the front of the slide. 


The educator walked around and saw the child hanging with the skipping rope around their neck. The child’s face and lips were blue, and the child was unresponsive and not breathing. 


The educator untied the child, carried the child inside assisted by another educator and a third educator performed CPR on the child. After 18 chest compressions were applied the child began breathing and regained consciousness. The Assistant Centre Manager called an ambulance and paramedics attended to the child.


17 children, two educators


On the day of the incident there were 17 children in the Kindy outside play area with two educators assigned to their care. The area was known to have blind spots such that even two educators would be unable to always keep all children in the area in view, the approved provider acknowledged.


Despite this, at around 3pm one of the two educators went inside to wash dishes and complete administration tasks followed by 2 or 3 children, leaving the other educator to supervise approximately 15 children by herself. 


Previous compliance issues


On 5 August 2021 the approved provider involved in this incident had been served with a compliance notice under section 177 of the National Law regarding injuries suffered by children at the Service in the same outdoor play space. 


The compliance notice warned the service that children were being inadequately supervised, and required the  development and implementation of an outdoor supervision plan identifying supervision points and having a system in place to monitor that staff follow the supervision policy and procedure. 


The plan showed three supervision points in the kindy outside area, yet at the time of the incident only one educator was outside. 


The compliance notice required a review of service practices to ensure all staff working directly with children prioritised effective supervision of children over other routine tasks, yet one of the two educators needed to supervise the children was cleaning up afternoon tea dishes and agreed that this was a regular practice. 


Inadequate induction


The two educators on duty in the Kindy outdoor area had not received an adequate induction in line with the approved provider’s Managing Team Member Onboarding and Induction Procedure. 


Since the incident took place the provider has taken a number of measures to mitigate the risk of similar incidents occurring in future, including: 


  • Extensive yard upgrades have since been completed at the service to allow children to independently explore while being effectively supervised at all times.
  • Additional safety checks are undertaken by the Nominated Supervisor, Area Manager and Quality Assurance Partner, with oversight and monitoring by the Approved Provider.
  • Mandatory training regarding Active Supervision has been completed by all team members at the Service. 
  • Enhancements to the team member induction and onboarding process have been implemented, including identifying team member understanding of policy and procedures through reflection and knowledge checks.


To learn more about effective supervision in outdoor learning spaces please see here

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