A continuation of part five in the IncludED@OSHC learning journey, safe environments.
It's not possible to remove all risks from your environment, but they will need to be planned for and managed.
Some risks may be more common with a child with a complex disability. They are:
- risk of a child harming themselves. The child may have a physical disability that makes them more prone to injury or cognitive impairment that means they do not understand the risks
- risks of a child harming others. A child with challenging behaviours may have aggressive outbursts and accidentally hurt other children or staff
- risks associated with personal care, such as toileting, feeding, mobility or giving medication. This can lead to occupational health and safety risks for both the child and the staff member. Staff may need to have extra training to reduce these risks
- risks associated with a child damaging property, such as breaking a window.
Case study: Keeping Amir safe
Amir loves the different activities and toys he gets to play with at his OSHC service. However, he struggles to remember rules and positive behaviours. Amir will often take toys from others and run away to avoid having to give them back. The service is on a busy main road and needs to keep Amir safe in case he tries to run out of the service with a toy.
To manage this risk, the educators gather information and strategies from Amir's support team, including Amir's father. They make sure the facility doors and gates are always closed. They have also assessed whether it is possible for Amir or another child to climb over any of the fences. They have moved the toy corner to the spot furthest away from any of the exits to give more time for an educator to stop Amir if he tries to run away with a toy.
How to manage risks
Risk management will help you identify health and safety hazards and know how to respond if an incident occurs.
It makes sure you can run your activities and include children with complex disabilities, even when a risk has been identified.
The parents of the other children may have safety concerns, such as their child being hurt or intimidated by a child with escalated behaviours. Address these concerns by telling parents about your risk management plans and strategies.
For excursions, be sure to develop separate risk assessments and risk management plans. Excursions often have different risks because of the kinds of activities they involve and because they take place in external, more unfamiliar environments.
Children can still be exposed to risks or participate in activities that have some level of risk, as long as the risks have been identified and reduced to a manageable level.
You will need to create a risk management plan to identify risks and develop strategies to control or reduce their impact or likelihood. A template risk management plan (docx - 404.54kb) is available to support you. Frequently review and update your risk management strategies.
You will need a risk management plan before activities such as:
- accepting a new enrolment from a child with a complex disability
- emergency evacuations, lockdowns and other procedural drills
- evacuations or lockdowns because of escalating behaviours
- temporarily moving your service to a new area while renovating.
Case study: Risk planning for an excursion with Jamie
Jamie's OSHC is going on an excursion to a local museum this week. His OSHC has identified a number of risks due to Jamie's disability.
He might refuse to follow instructions, get distracted, or run off during the museum tour. He also might display aggressive behaviours when playing in the interactive children's exhibit.
Jamie's OSHC has planned to manage these. There will be enough staff on the excursion so one staff member can follow Jamie if he tries to wander off. If Jamie struggles to pay attention during the tour or gets agitated or frustrated in the children's exhibit, he can be taken to the playground, which is open to all children when they want a break. Jamie has said his goal for the excursion is to see all the exhibits and 'play nicely' with everyone. The educators will continue to remind him of his goal throughout the day.
What to include in a risk management plan
Use these headings and explanations to help you document your plan:
Identify any threats to the health and safety of children or staff at your service.
Explain the risks associated with the hazard and what impact they may have on health and safety.
Rate and assess the likelihood of the risk occurring (high, medium or low) and the extent of the impact on safety.
Explain how to manage or reduce identified risks, and how to monitor hazards and risks.
Explain your strategies and actions if an identified risk occurs.
Review whether there are any new hazards or changes to the likelihood or impact of hazards. Update your control and response strategies if required.
Responding to incidents
Even if you've planned for risks, an incident could still occur. If this happens, you should already have a response plan in place that identifies what needs to be done.
Worst-case scenarios are highly unlikely to occur when risk management plans have been put in place. However, response plans should still be developed for all types of incidents, from the milder (such as when a child falls down and scrapes their knees in the playground) to critical incidents (such as when a child runs away from your service and on to a busy main road).
Some incidents may lead to emergencies that require you to enact your emergency management plan. This plan should give details of when to evacuate, when to call an ambulance and when to notify parents.
A child with a complex disability may require their own personal emergency management or evacuation plan (such as a child who cannot hear an emergency alarm or has past trauma triggered by the sound of an emergency alarm).
Help the other children learn how to respond when an incident happens. Role model calmness, use simple language and be consistent in your response (for example, always evacuate in the same way to the same space) so children know what to expect and remember what to do.
You will need to have reporting policies and processes in place for any incidents that occur (such as reporting the incident and seeking medical care for an injured child).
Case study: Escalating behaviours
At one OSHC service, a child with a complex disability has escalated behaviours, including throwing objects and attempting to wreck the space around them.
When the child's behaviour escalates to this point, the service's incident response plan is to evacuate the other children from the space and have them participate in an outdoor game or move their activities to available gym space. This keeps all the children safe and provides the necessary space and time for the child with escalated behaviours to self-regulate, which usually takes about 45 minutes.