What is Risk Management in Childcare?
Operating an early learning and childcare business comes with its own set of unique challenges and risks. Not to mention the curveballs that children themselves add to the mix each day. With that in mind, risk management is an essential part of operating a childcare service.
Here’s how to develop a risk management plan and implement risk management processes as an early learning and childcare provider.
What is risk management?
Managing risk within an early learning and childcare setting involves carrying out risk assessments to identify potential risks and introducing a risk management process that details how you would manage these risks.
Risk management and the National Quality Framework
Approved early learning and childcare service providers must ensure they remain compliant with their responsibilities detailed in the National Quality Framework (NQF). As part of your requirements under the NQF, you have a legal obligation to implement risk management processes and plans within your business that ensure the health and safety of all children, employees and volunteers on site.
According to the Education and Care Services National Law, approved early childhood education and care providers, supervisors and family day care educators “must ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury”.
The risk assessment process
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) provides a Risk Assessment and Management Tool under Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard (NQS). This plan breaks the process of carrying out risk assessments into the following five simple steps.
Step 1: Identify potential risks
The first step in the risk assessment process is to identify the hazard or potential hazards that could cause harm or have a negative impact on the people at your service. There are a number of ways to identify potential risks and hazards, including:
- Completing daily hazard minimisation checklists,
- Regularly raising the topic of hazard identification at team meetings, and
- Proactively monitoring learning environments and equipment.
There are a variety of internal and external risks that have the potential to impact early learning and childcare services. For example, damaged equipment, a sick child and natural disasters could all have a negative effect on your business and should be accounted for within your risk management plan.
Step 2: Assess the risk
Once you’ve identified risks and hazards that are relevant to your business operations, you need to assess the risk of harm or potential harm to children, employees, volunteers and others. Use the risk matrix in ACECQA’s Risk Assessment and Management Tool to:
- Assess the hazard,
- Determine the potential harm, the likelihood of it occurring, the consequences and outcomes of the hazard, and
- Identify potential risks or benefits of undertaking the activity or experience for children’s learning, development and well-being.
Step 3: Manage the risk
When managing risks, you should aim to either eliminate them completely or identify and introduce control measures that reduce the impact of the risk or hazard. Control measures are essentially a strategy or action that manages, eliminates or minimises the impact of risks and hazards.
These strategies could involve removing and disposing of a broken toy to eliminate the risk entirely. Alternatively, you might separate a sick child from others to reduce the risk of others becoming unwell. The controls you put in place depend on the risk or hazard itself.
Step 4: Evaluate the risk
Once you’ve introduced control measures to manage the risk, it’s time to evaluate the current risk or hazard to understand whether the risk of harm has been reduced. If the risk remains, you might need to introduce alternative control measures for more effective risk mitigation.
Step 5: Review and monitor risk controls
The final step in the risk management process is to continue to review and monitor the risk of harm. By staying vigilant and being proactive, you have a better chance of minimising potential risks and hazards.
Childcare services are a constantly changing environment, so it’s important to ensure you and your staff are regularly reviewing and monitoring risks. In doing this, it might help to introduce daily safety checklists, conduct regular work, health and safety inspections and include risk management assessment as a standing item on the agenda for team meetings.
Kangarootime’s all-in-one management platform allows you to store your risk management tools in one handy place. Our software allows you to make updates to your policies and procedures in real time and share them with your team, no matter where they are. Book a demo today to see how Kangarootime can be integrated with your childcare service.