Important for ECE Service Providers and Teams to take Action
WorkSafe NZ states that: “a healthy and safe workplace starts with identifying and understanding what your work-related health and safety risks are; particularly those that have the potential to cause people serious harm or illness. It then involves doing what is sensible and reasonable to eliminate or, where they can’t be, manage those risks.”
Clause 2 of the ‘Code of Ethical Conduct for Early Childhood Services’ emphasises the obligation of service providers to ensure the well-being of all members, including staff. Early childhood education providers, supported by the Education Review Office, could engage in self-review on clause 2c “Early childhood service adults provide role models to children of respectful and inclusive behaviour”, and clause 2d “Any instances of hateful, hurtful or discriminatory behaviour (including bullying), attitudes, and language by any adult or child at the early childhood service are picked up promptly before escalation and addressed in a constructive and considerate way.” ()
Under the new Health and Safety at Work (2015) Act an early childhood service is classified as a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking - which can also be a company) and it, therefore, has a primary duty of care to ensure worker health and safety. A service must review what it does to ensure staff safety and how critical risks (such as small furniture and clutter, and workload) can be managed.
Under the Act employers are also now expected to be open to staff raising concerns and offering suggestions for improving health and safety.
Early childhood education providers can use the information presented in this report to begin a conversation with their staff on health and safety, and as a starting point for reviewing practices and risk management. An example might be identifying that back injury prevention is important and looking at how the risk of back injuries can be managed including what changes might be made in the physical environment and what responsibility staff may take for example, by learning about and using methods of safe bending and lifting.
Reviewing individual staff workloads would help to define what can be realistically managed within working hours to reduce the risk of burnout, illness and staff leaving or losing their intrinsic motivation, all of which could have a knock-on effect on children at the service. Also, regular monitoring of staff workloads would help ECE providers and managers to see where there may be needs for more staffing or re-arrangement of duties and hours according to staff areas of expertise and confidence.