Physical harm and illness
The majority of physical issues reported were injuries either caused by one-off incidents while at work, or attributed to the on-going strains and stresses on the body through working in ECE.
Only a small percentage of respondents reported suffering from a contagious illness such as chicken pox or school sores which had been caught through their work.
Of the physical injuries, back injuries were one of the most common problems cited, along with shoulder, arm, knee and foot issues.
Many of these were caused by the nature of the early childhood setting and working with young children, for example:
- back pain from picking up infants for nappy changes, putting them in a cot etc.
- back problems from lifting heavy equipment
- back pain from bending over low tables to interact with children, clean and prepare activities
- knee problems from kneeling down to children’s level
- shoulder and wrist problems from extended computer use
Falls and slips were also common causes of injuries including slipping on wet or muddy surfaces.
Some respondents commented that their injuries had been caused by unsafe equipment, or badly maintained areas such as storage sheds not being filled safely, toys being left out or furniture blocking the way.
Injures caused directly by children were less common than those that were accident related and were mentioned only by staff who were at kindergarten and childcare centre workplaces.
Injuries caused by children included:
- being bitten by children
- back, arm and shoulder injuries due to children playing roughly or needing to be held by the hand but pulling away frequently
- being hit by a child
In some cases, the problem of the physical injury was then compounded by a lack of support from the ECE service which led to other issues including financial difficulties and stress. For example one teacher said:
I injured my shoulder and I lost wages when I had to attend the doctors and x-ray dept. Also my centre manager made me rearrange my appointment which has meant I have had to wait two weeks before being seen by a health professional. (childcare centre)