Creating and maintaining a safe environment is a major concern for all programs, and starts with making sure you are prepared for emergencies. Program policies should include emergency policies to be implemented in the event of accident, fire, flood, evacuation, or other unforeseen emergencies. Each child's file must include phone numbers of the person(s) to contact in an emergency, and a release form authorizing the program to seek emergency treatment for the child if the parent or other emergency contact is unavailable.

Be Ready!

  • All center staff should be fully trained in first aid and CPR, and should know how to respond immediately in the event of an emergency.
  • Emergency numbers should be posted in each classroom and by each telephone, along with directions for staff response in various emergency situations.
  • Have syrup of ipecac on hand in the first aid cabinet for when you need to induce vomiting. Never give ipecac, however, without being instructed to do so by a doctor or a Poison Control Center.

Nursery Safety

From the beginning of a child's life, products such as cribs, high chairs, and other equipment must be selected with safety in mind. Care providers need to be aware of the many potential hazards occurring through misuse of products or with products that have not been well designed for use by children.

  • Slats not spaced more than 2-3/8 inches apart, and not loose, cracked, or missing
  • Mattress fits crib snugly
  • No pillows, bumpers, or fluffy comforters or objects in crib
  • All bolts, screws, and other hardware present and tightly attached to crib
  • Drop-side latches securely hold the side of crib in raised position
  • No cutouts in the headboard or footboard of crib
  • Corner posts no more than 1/16 inch higher than top rail edges
  • Babies put to sleep on their backs, not on their stomachs (to help prevent SIDS)
Crib Toys
  • No strings or cords dangling into the crib; crib gyms or mobiles removed when children can push up on hands and knees or when children are five months old
  • All parts of toys are too large to be a choking hazard.
High Chairs
  • Crotch strap keeps children from sliding out of chair; restraining straps are independent from tray
  • Tray locks securely
  • Buckles on straps easy to fasten and unfasten
  • A wide base for stability
  • Caps or plugs on ends of tubing firmly attached to chair
  • The top rails lock automatically in the normal use position
  • No rotating hinge in the center of the top rails
  • Mesh playpen or crib with drop-side should never be left with the side down (suffocation hazard); mesh weave should be no more than 1/4 inch, with no loose threads or tears, and is securely attached to frame, top rail, and floorplate
Rattles, Squeeze Toys, and Teethers
  • Teething devices securely molded out of one piece of hard rubber or medium plastic, with no smaller pieces that can be dislodged and choke child
  • Handles too large to become lodged in baby's throat
  • Teething toys checked regularly and replaced if showing signs of disintegration
  • No detachable squeakers in squeeze toys (choking hazard
Changing tables
  • Safety straps to prevent baby from falling (but always keep your hand on baby)
  • Shelves or drawers easily accessible so that baby not left unattended
    One hand kept on child on a high surface
Hook-on Chairs
  • Safety strap to secure child
  • Clamp that locks onto table for added security
  • Caps or plugs on ends of tubing firmly attached (choking hazard)
  • Chair never placed where child can push off with feet
  • No yarn, ribbon, or string attached (strangulation hazard)
  • Shield large enough so that it cannot fit into baby's mouth
  • Shield has ventilation holes so that baby can breathe if the shield does go into the mouth
  • Nipple free of holes or tears that could cause it to break off in baby's mouth (choking hazard)
Strollers and carriages
  • Wide base for stability
  • Seat belt and crotch strap attached securely to frame
  • Seat belt buckle easy to use
  • Brakes firmly lock wheels
  • Extra baskets or pockets are low on the back and located directly over or in front of rear wheels

Safety Throughout the Program

It pays in many ways to make safety checks a part of your routine, from the daily sweeps of the program to make sure everything is safety stored away, to the fire drills that keep children and staff alike aware of the steps to take in an emergency.

Fire Safety
  • Monthly checks that smoke detectors are in working order
  • All exits clear at all times
  • Quick-opening locks on windows
  • Monthly fire safety drills, and "stop, drop, and roll" drills with all staff and children
Electrical Safety
  • Electrical outlets have clear, childproof covers
  • Electrical appliances free of loose plugs, fraying cords, or bare wires
  • Wires and extension cords do not run under rugs or carpeting or across floor in traffic areas
Kitchen Safety
  • Children supervised closely in the kitchen
  • Extreme care used if heating baby bottles in microwave: content can be alternately scalding and cool, and should be shaken well and tested before given to baby
  • Household cleaners, abrasives, products, and toxins kept in original, clearly marked containers, and kept locked out of children's sight and reach
Bathroom Safety
  • Hot water heater set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding
  • Medications and other hazardous items kept in locked cabinets out of children's reach
  • Young children supervised in the bathroom; toilets have lid locks if children are three or younger
  • Sturdy non-tip stepstool provided if the toilet or sink is high
Classrooms/Child Care Areas
  • Electrical outlets covered with clear, childproof plastic covers
  • Radiators covered with secure radiator covers
  • Toys have no sharp edges, and are not a choking hazard
  • Safety gates (not accordion-style) installed at the top and bottom of stairs
  • Houseplants kept out of children's reach; plants are not poisonous
  • Curtain cords, Venetian blind cords, etc., fastened up out of children's reach
  • Jumpers or swings used instead of walkers

Pet Safety

Children taught to keep faces away from pets' mouths, beaks, or claws, and to wash hands after handling or playing with pets .
Many reptiles carry salmonella (a dangerous bacteria) and are inappropriate pets for children.

Window Safety

  • Window guards or stops installed in all rooms where young children spend time
  • Windows opened from the top, not the bottom
  • Furniture kept away from windows to discourage climbing near windows

Water Safety

  • Children never left alone near a wading pool, bathtub, or other body of water
  • Children under three never left alone, even near a bucket of water or a toilet
  • Adults keep constant eye on children playing in or around water: drowning can occur in less than two minutes
  • Wading pools emptied after each use
  • Five-foot fence with a locking gate encircles pool; gate kept locked at all times

Outdoor Safety

Children's innate curiosity and sense of adventure drive them to try all sorts of new activities, particularly when they are outdoors.

Keep them out of harm's way by taking these precautions:
  • Children are supervised constantly in playgrounds.
  • Play equipment bolted securely in place
  • Surfaces are twelve inches of soft sand or wood chips, or rubber matting approved for playground use. Soft surfaces extend six feet from the edge of any structure (wider if the structure is higher than four feet).
  • Structures for children under three years old are not taller than the child's height, and do not have railings or slats more than 2-3/8 inches apart.
  • Structures checked regularly for sharp edges, loose bolts or screws, splinters, cracks, or other damaged areas that could catch or hurt children. All sharp edges should be cushioned to reduce injury.
  • Structures painted with lead-free paint only. Peeling paint is removed and structure repainted.
  • Drawstrings removed from children's hooded sweatshirts, snowsuits, etc. (choking hazards)
  • Yard kept free of toxic plants

Vehicle Safety

Whether it's for an occasional field trip or daily pick-up trips, you're likely to have children in and out of your vehicles. Here's what to do to make it a safe ride.

The rear seat is the safest place for children of any age to ride! Always buckle children up in the vehicle: use car seats, boosters, and/or lap belts, according to the child's age and size. Babies should ride in rear-facing infant car seat until they are at least one year old and weight more than twenty pounds, and should be securely strapped into the back seat of the car. Be sure the seat is approved for infants and has not been recalled by the  Consumer Product Safety Commission. Children over a year, weighing between 22 and 40 lbs., can use a forward-facing car seat, securely strapped into the back seat. Make sure that you are using an approved car seat for the correct weight and height of the child. Children over 40 lbs. should travel in the back seat of the vehicle with buckled seat and shoulder belts, or a securely strapped booster seat.

Air bags can be hazardous to children sitting in the front seat. Read your car's owner's manual carefully on air bag safety. When used with lap or shoulder belts, airbags work well to protect older children and adults who ride in the front seat, facing the front of the car. Make sure that everyone in the front seat is properly buckled up and seated as far back from the air bags as is reasonably possible.

Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. The inside can become dangerously hot very quickly. Unattended children are also targets for abduction. Moreover, children may accidentally release the brake and the vehicle may begin to roll.

For additional information, contact the [NHSTA:] at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT.

Choking Prevention

Choking is one of the leading causes of preventable death in babies. It¡¦s vital that your staff members are trained in recognizing, preventing, and intervening in a choking episode.

What is choking?

When someone is choking, they are not able to speak or cough. Coughing is the natural way for people to clear their throats. All staff should be trained to recognize choking and to know what do (e.g., the Heimlich maneuver) and what not to do. Do not use any choking intervention maneuvers if your child is still coughing. If you are concerned about a child's coughing from near-choking, call 911, another local emergency number, or your pediatrician.

Choking Prevention
  • Prevent children from running with anything in their mouths.
  • A child should never lie down while eating.
  • Never leave a baby alone with a propped up bottle.
  • Small food pieces that are round, hard, or difficult to chew should not be given to children.
  • It is recommended not to give the following to children under age three: nuts, hard candies, hot dogs, raw carrots, popcorn, grapes, raisins, toys with small parts, coins, jewelry.
  • It is recommended never to give any of these items to a child under age five: rubber balloons (mylar balloons are less of a choking risk), buttons, button batteries, nails, screws, safety pins.

Weapon and Tool Safety

If you plan to have a child care business and you or a family member own guns, you should disclose this information to parents, along with the safety precautions you have taken.

  • Store unloaded guns in a locked cabinet at all times. Guns should be kept out of sight.
  • Store ammunition separately from firearms in a locked cabinet.
  • Ammunition should be stored out of sight.
  • All sharp objects, including knives, scissors, letter openers, sharp tools, etc., should be stored out of reach and out of sight, preferably in locked cupboards or locked drawers.

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