Shifting Frames of Mind on OHS/WHS in Early Childhood Services. Assessing the risks
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, (AHPPC), peak decision-making committee for public health emergency management and disease control, made a statement on 3 April, 2020 with regard to the safety of children and staff in response to COVID-19 in Early Childhood centres across Australia. It is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/committees-and-groups/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc
A safe workplace doesn’t just happen by chance or by guesswork and therefore their recommendations should be taken into account in the development of a new and distinct risk assessment for your service. Under the OHS/WHS Law and Regulations in Australia, Early Childhood staff should take a systematic approach to finding hazards and assessing risks at their services as part of their daily practice. This approach ensures the highest level of protection is in place for people at work and has never been more pertinent.
Leaders, Managers and staff should begin by identifying the hazards. In this case, the event is COVID-19 Pandemic and the hazards might be:
- Staff members being exposed and infected with COVID-19 by children, families or colleagues
- A lack of training may lead to staff members being exposed and infected with COVID-19 by children, families or colleagues
- Rostering issues may lead to staff members being exposed and infected with COVID-19 by children, families or colleagues
- Infection may be spread through hand contact, sneezing or mucus being projected from the mouth when talking and COVID-19 survives on inanimate objects and surfaces
- Staff members experiencing psychosocial hazards related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Excursions outside of the service may place staff members at higher risk.
When you have identified the risk as high to extreme, the highest management decision is required urgently. The result of this risk assessment requires immediate attention.
Ask yourself these questions in regard to COVID-19.
- Can I eliminate the hazard?
- Can I substitute the hazard? No.
- Can I isolate people from the hazard? No and yes.
- Can I change the way people work? No and yes.
- Can I protect the staff with personal protective equipment? No and yes.
A risk assessment has been filled in for Early Childhood Services. You are welcome to download it and use it for your service. It is available from www.earlychildhoodhub.com.au for free.
Don't forget to fill in who will undertake the control measures.
Remember, when you introduce control measures, you may unintentionally create new hazards in your service.
Kerrie O’Neill M.ED (Early Childhood), Certificate IV Occupational Health and Safety.