OSHA Safety Manuals | Childcare Worker Safety
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childcare worker safety

Childcare Worker Safety

Childcare Worker Safety

Workers in childcare facilities educate and care for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children. Childcare may not seem like a hazardous occupation, but every workplace has hazards and risks. Childcare workers should pay attention to their own safety while they nurture children.

Use good ergonomics to reduce the risk of strain or sprain injuries. To protect your back, try to find ways to reduce lifting like using steps up to the changing table, sink, or fountain. To comfort a child, kneel down to their level instead of bending over toward them or lifting them. Avoid bending or hunching over when wiping or setting low tables or cots; bending your knees and keeping your back straight protects your back during these tasks.

Working around small furniture, numerous toys, and small children increases the risk of slips, trips and falls; wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with good traction. Walk slowly and avoid rushing while carrying loads or children, which can obstruct your view. Clean up scattered toys on the floor between activities. Ensure that spills are cleaned up immediately and rugs are secured; everyone in the childcare facility is responsible for reducing slip, trip and fall hazards.

Infection control reduces the spread of germs. Wash your hands after handling sick children, changing diapers, helping children in the bathroom, before preparing food, before eating, and before leaving for the day. Frequently wash down tables, counters, and sinks with a mild bleach solution. Smocks or aprons reduce germ transmittal, especially with infant care. Consider vaccination against chicken pox, hepatitis B, measles, rubella, mumps, polio, tetanus, and diphtheria, all of which can cause serious illness.

Lice infestation is contagious and common in childcare. The tiny insects are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing combs, brushes, towels, hats, helmets, and bedding; sharing personal items should be avoided. Lice are not dangerous and don’t carry disease; they infest the skin, especially the scalp, and cause extreme itchiness and rashes. Treatment requires special shampoos and fine combing the hair to remove lice and their nits (eggs).

For protection against bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV, practice universal precautions when you change diapers, help children toilet, wipe noses, brush teeth, give health exams, and administer first aid. Always wear gloves during these tasks. Latex gloves are commonly used for universal precautions and when cooking or serving food; know the symptoms of latex allergy, such as watery eyes and skin irritation. Ensure that the latex gloves you use are powdered to reduce skin contact and that there are non-latex alternatives available.

When supervising children in outdoor play areas, be aware of sun safety. Wear a hat and sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays; covered or shaded play areas are ideal. Outdoor play can lead to heat or cold stress, depending on the climate and season. Wear several light layers of clothing and watch for symptoms of environmental stress.

Childcare is a vital service to care for the future generation; you are a teacher and a role model to the children in your charge. While you focus on your own health and safety on the job, model safe behavior and ensure that the childcare setting is safe for both children and adults. Maintain childcare sites free of hazards such as containers of standing water, unstable or improperly padded climbing structures, and access to chemicals or medicines. It is vital to maintain constant supervision over children; they should never be isolated from the group or restrained in any way that could pose a strangulation hazard. The emotional impacts of a child’s injury or death in the childcare setting are devastating and far-reaching; protect yourself and the children you care for – for safety’s sake.