Risk assessments may be time consuming but they are vital to prevent accidents and injuries. Make sure that you have undertaken thorough risk assessments of all areas of your work including play areas, outdoor spaces, kitchens, general workspaces, trips and visits, etc. Having risk assessments not only helps to minimise accidents, but also helps prove that you have done everything in your power to prevent them.
The first rule in dealing with any emergency situation is to stay calm and don’t panic, and encourage others to do the same. In an emergency situation, your body reacts by going into survival/fight-or-flight mode. It prepares by overproducing cortisol, which can reduce your critical thinking and increase your emotional response, so your ability to make effective, critically-thought-through judgements fades, which could cost lives. Deep breathing, systematic tensing and releasing of muscles, and slow counting, are all ways that can help you regain a calm and clear head.
Having procedures/protocols to follow in the event of an accident or injury is essential for all nursery settings. You must ensure that your staff know what to do and have practiced for any potential eventualities. It is your legal responsibility to do so, or you could be held negligent in a court of law.
One article cannot advise you what to do in every emergency situation – each setting is different, has different staff with varying expertise and qualifications, so it’s important to write your own specific procedures and protocols for dealing with each event.
You should consider including:
Your plans should cover procedures for incidents that might occur during and outside your normal operating hours, including weekends and holidays if these will affect your ability to operate, and any extended services you run such as early/late hours or holiday activities.
Protocols should be clear and in a step-by-step format including:
How to make the area safe to prevent further harm The process for calling the emergency services The person responsible for administering first aid – you should always have a trained first aider on site but what will you do if they are late/stuck in traffic etc? The roles that people will undertake in the event of an emergency – e.g. managing the response/carrying out required tasks The process for informing relevant parents/carers or next of kin The procedure for managing information to parents/carers, the community, social media and perhaps, to outside reporters and journalists At all stages, identify who is responsible – this might be a named person or an identified role, e.g. “the duty first aider”. However, if you identify a role rather than a person, you need to keep and display prominently, the name of the said “duty first aider” for each day. It is also important to consult with any governing of advisory board you may have, to gain their support for your plans, and to publish them so that all members of your team know how to respond or where to find the protocol information. It is then vital that you regularly practice each emergency plan so that you are well prepared if the worst happens. If you discover something is not working as well as it should, then change your protocols to improve them.
There is a statutory duty in the UK to keep records of accident and injuries. This could be in an accident report book, and you should clearly record the details of the accident, what happened, who dealt with it and what actions were taken. You can then make investigations and changes to your risk assessments and protocols where necessary.
In addition, you must report all serious incidents to the governing country. For example, in England, Ofsted-registered childminders, nannies and nurseries must report all serious accidents, injuries and illness to Ofsted and other local child protection agencies. This includes child death. In addition, RIDDOR requires you to report all injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences in the workplace.
Finally, assess any longer-term needs following an incident. This may mean looking at the mental health of affected people and offering counselling or trauma services to manage any detrimental effects following an event.