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Child Care Center Safety

Updated on November 20, 2009
Child care center safety
Child care center safety

Safety Basics

Let's pause a moment to salute those fearless and tireless individuals who tend our bawling, tantrum-throwing mean precious little angels. Child care is a physically and emotionally taxing job. Child care workers must be constantly alert, anticipate and prevent trouble, deal effectively with disruptive children, and provide fair, but firm, discipline. They must constantly stand, walk, bend ,stoop, and lift to attend to each child's interests and problems. And they have primary responsibility for the safety of the children and themselves. To the uninitiated, childcare may not seem like a hazardous occupation, but workers are dodging hazards from projectile vomiting to purple Barney tripping objects. Follow these guidelines to keep your childcare employees healthy, happy, and sane.

Physical hazards
Physical hazards

Hazard Categories

The three primary hazard categories in child care centers are physical, biological, and chemical. Childcare workers need to plan ahead to avoid the common sources of injury and illness and pay constant attention to their own safety while they supervise the children.

Physical Hazards - Cases per 10,000 full-time workers

Injury Type
Number of Injuries
Back pain
DisordersMultiple traumatic injuries

Prevent Physical Injuries


Teach your employees the proper bending/lifting techniques and spare them a possible lifetime of back pain.

  • Bend at the knees and lift with the legs; do not bend at the waist and lift with the back.  Lifting with the back turns your spine into a fulcrum and puts the weight of the load at its weakest point.
  • Better yet, don't lift at all. Find ways to reduce lifting.  Install steps up to the changing table, sink, or fountain so the children can reach them on their own. When talking with children, kneel down to their level instead of bending over them or lifting them.
  • Don't bend or hunch when wiping or setting low tables or cots; bend your knees and keep your back straight.  This aligns your spine's natural curve and protects your back from strains.
  • Purchase adult-sized furniture and use it. Don’t try to fit yourself into child-size chairs or play equipment.

Tripping hazards
Tripping hazards

Slips, trips, and falls

Working around small furniture, zillions of toys, and squirming children increases the risk of slips, trips, and falls.  Teach your employees to:

  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with good traction
  • Walk slowly, especially when carrying children or loads, which can obstruct their view
  • Clean up scattered toys between activities
  • Clean up liquid spills immediately
  • Ensure that rugs and mats are secure
  • Use absorbent mats in areas where there may be water on the floor, especially around drinking fountains and bathroom sinks where children may splash or spill water
  • While on playgrounds pay attention to where they are walking and don’t climb on play equipment unless it is sturdy enough to support the weight of an adult

Prevent weather-related injuries
Prevent weather-related injuries

Weather hazards

Keep an eye on the weather when supervising children outdoors. Wear a hat or sunscreen to protect against harmful (and aging) UV rays. Outdoor play can also lead to heat or cold stress depending on the season. Dress appropriately and watch for symptoms of environmental stress. In hot weather these can be profuse sweating, muscle cramps or weakness, dizziness, rapid breathing, and nausea. In cold weather signs of hypothermia include uncontrolled trembling, loss of sensation in hands and feet, loss of reflexes, and confusion.  Unless these are your normal characteristics while supvervising the various little Madisons, Brandons, and Emilys, take heed and take action!

Prevent vehicle accidents
Prevent vehicle accidents

Prevent vehicle accidents

Insist that children sit and talk quietly whenever you are transporting them in a vehicle. Do not allow rambunctious play, loud music, shouting, or video games that may distract you. If it becomes necessary to settle down unruly little darlings, pull the vehicle off the road, park in a safe place, and put the gear in “park” before attempting to calm the situation.

Reduce stress

No kidding!  Working daily with children, AND their parents, can be stressful. There should always be at least two childcare workers available and they should take care to relieve one another during stressful situations. Have them alternate performing the more unpleasant tasks, such as diapering, and let each other take momentary breaks away from the children.

  • Even a few minutes of quiet time will enhance their ability to cope
  • Take turns sharing tasks, like preparing snacks, that don’t directly involve the children
  • Insist on a daily nap time - for the children that is!

Biological hazards
Biological hazards

Prevent Biological Hazards


Child care centers can be rife with germs from dozens of runny noses and grubby hands. Colds, flu and other common infectious diseases spread easily through physical contact and the daily sharing of toys, food, and sleeping mats. Though immunization rates have increased over the years infectious diseases such as chicken pox, polio, rubella, mumps, and measles are still potential hazards to child care workers.

Consider these vaccinations for your workers:

  • Chicken pox
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria

Stop spread of infectious diseases
Stop spread of infectious diseases


Hand washing is the single most effective way to stop the transmission of infectious diseases that are commonly spread through child care centers. It is a simple action, but takes time and energy so make sure your facility has convenient sinks so adults and children can wash their hands frequently.

Teach employees to wash their hands:

  • After handling sick children
  • After changing diapers
  • After helping children in the toilet
  • Before preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before leaving for the day

Instruct children about the proper use of running water, soap, and single-use/disposable towels. Don't assume they know anything about personal hygiene.  Encourage and monitor their hand washing activities.


Poo patrol is nobody's idea of a good time but diapering areas must be carefully disinfected after each use.  Instruct staff to wear clean latex gloves every time they change diapers to prevent spreading disease. Have them frequently wash down tables, counters, and sink handles with a mild bleach solution and wear smocks or aprons when performing infant care. Change and wash smocks daily.

Frequently Cited Hazards

Some of the most commonly cited hazards identified during child care center safety inspections are:

  • Non-GFI protected electrical outlets within 6 feet of sinks. Without ground fault interruption protection, electrical appliances such as toasters or coffee makers become electrocution hazards if knocked into a sink full of water.
  • Flammable or combustible materials stored in water heater or furnace closets. It is a severe fire hazard to store any flammable liquids, household cleaning products, or combustible materials near open flames or pilot lights.
  • Unprotected electrical outlets. Children who poke metal objects into these are in for a hair raising experience.
  • Plastic bags within reach of children.  These are a suffocation hazard.
  • Diapering areas not sufficiently separated from play areas.
  • Not enough caregivers.

Chemical hazard
Chemical hazard

Prevent Chemical Exposures

Dermatitis is a common occupational health hazard in child care centers. Types of chemicals caregivers and children may be exposed to include cleaning and disinfecting solutions, soaps, art materials, and pesticides.

  • Always use the mildest concentration of a cleaning product that will get the job done
  • Replace hazardous products with nontoxic substitutes. If no substitute is available, eliminate the product or get the job done by a professional
  • Use cleaning products as directed
  • Read the label prior to use and follow the instructions and warnings
  • Wear gloves whenever using cleaning products
  • Store them on high shelves or in locked cabinets where children cannot reach them

Art supplies can be hazardous
Art supplies can be hazardous

Art supplies

Powdered or liquid paints, permanent markers, dry clay, inks and other types or aft supplies can cause respiratory and skin irritation.

  • Ensure that all arts and crafts materials used in your child care center are nontoxic
  • Do not let children or staff eat or drink anything while using art materials
  • Do not use old or donated materials, or materials that have lost or illegible labels. You don't know what ingredients they might contain.

You are a teacher and a role model. Model safe behavior. The children will learn by watching and doing.


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    • profile image

      mez mate 3 years ago

      thank you kindly. would be great to sit down with you so you can fill me in on all your knowledge about child care. cannot believe that anyone can have kids with no knowledge. anyone who is thinking of bringing kids into this mad world (my world) must do their kids a favour and complete certificate 3 in child care.

      ps. always did love hanging in the hub ova dar:(

    • priyanka1989 profile image

      priyanka1989 5 years ago

      awesome thanx a lot

    • profile image

      Maddisyne-Clare Marshall 5 years ago

      What are the steps that must be followed when a potential hazard has been identified ?

    • heliaqu profile image

      heliaqu 7 years ago

      3)Alternative for ADD. also sooths hyperactive children

    • profile image

      MEZ 7 years ago

      I thought this website was very helpful not only did it elaborate some hazards but i also learn new hazards that I didn't even think of. Thank you

    • C. Stewart profile image

      C. Stewart 7 years ago

      I like that this article addresses the safety and health of child care teachers.