Winter safety - Have a plan this winter.
While winter can be a season of fun and adventure for children, it can also be very dangerous. Cold temperatures, dark nights, rain, ice and snow can make life challenging for childcare practitioners.
Keep warm and safe with these hot safety tips for winter.
Indoor safety is important all year around, but even more so in winter simply because we spend more time indoors.
During the winter months gas boilers, fires and other fuel-burning appliances are working to the max, meaning that dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up.
Have your heating and gas appliances serviced regularly to test their safety limits. Check to make sure your premises has a carbon monoxide detector and its working correctly, especially near sleeping areas.
It’s worth preparing an emergency plan for unpredictable weather conditions and power outages. Stock up on essentials such as extra batteries for torches and a back-up battery for your mobile phone. It’s also worth having a battery-powered or wind-up radio to hand, along with a list of useful contact numbers on both your mobile phone and on paper.
Keep walkways clear and safe.
Slip and trip accidents increase during autumn and winter. There is less daylight, leaves on paths become wet and slippery and cold weather spells can cause ice and snow build up. To reduce these hazards:
- Ensure lighting levels are adequate to enable people to see obstructions and potentially slippery or uneven areas, by cleaning, repairing or replacing lights when light levels become too low.
- Have procedures in place for de-icing and removing leaves from external access areas, footpaths, steps and external play areas.
- Avoid having surface water accumulations through effective drainage, and remove algae growth where it appears.
- Maintain footpaths and outside play areas in good condition with potholes and cracks filled in.
- Ensure edges or variation in floor height, such as step edges are clearly marked wherever possible.
Outdoor winter play
In the cold of winter, the importance of keeping children safe when they are outdoors can’t be overstated. Children need to play outside every day, even in winter. Going outside to run, jump, laugh and wiggle allows children to use their large muscles and work off extra energy. Just make sure you are prepared!
Parents might find it useful if you share some winter clothing advice to help ensure their child is dressed appropriately for winter play and outings.
- Dress children in several layers of clothing. If they get too warm you can always remove a layer at a time.
- A warm, water resistant coat is essential.
- Provide adequate head, face, hands and neck protection. Be aware, though, that there are lots of potential hazards when considering winter clothing and it is recommended that scarves, mittens which are attached to strings, and hats with ties are avoided as they can pose a strangulation hazard.
- Footwear needs to fit correctly, be waterproof and have good slip resistance.
- Make it a priority to be seen when you are out and about. Wearing some reflective items will help make children more visible to drivers.
- Children younger than 8 years of age should always be supervised outside.
- Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play and have children come inside periodically to warm up.
- Check from time to time to make sure children are warm and dry.
- If children are not moving around very much or they start to shiver bring them inside straightaway.
- Always make sure children drink plenty of warm fluids to help maintain their temperature. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the cold, often without noticing.
- If the children get their clothes wet be sure to remove all wet clothing immediately, Get them changed, warm and dry before letting them go back outdoors.
- Have extra mittens and socks available. It easy for these items to get soaked when playing outside.
- If you’re taking a trip to the park consider taking a towel with you to wipe down surfaces to prevent wet bottoms.
- Tell children not to put their tongues on cold metal. It may sound silly, but some children still do it and it can be very painful.
- If children are using sledges in the snow, you need to make sure the quality of the sled is of an impeccable standard. Always use proper safety equipment including helmets - a sports helmet is best. Pick a safe spot to sled which is not too steep and has a large long flat area at the bottom to stop. Avoid hills with trees, ponds, fences, poles or that end near a street.
- Even though making and throwing snowballs is fun, avoid getting involved in snowball fights as they can lead to injuries from dangerous projectiles.
- Eating snow needs to be off the list too as it may contain pollutants, dirt and other contaminants.
Get around safe and sound
Winter driving can be dangerous, so you should make sure you are ready for any situation. Make sure you have a few essentials in your car: a first-aid kit, blankets, ice scrapper, shovel, drinking water and non-perishable snacks.
When travelling in the car it is important to understand how snow suits and bulky coats impact the effectiveness of the harness straps that holds the child safely. If a car seat is not tightened properly, it will not be able to restrain a child safely in the case of an accident.
Experts recommend removing your child’s coats, jackets or snow suits before strapping them in and popping a blanket over them to keep them warm. If you are unsure of how tightly to strap a child in, follow these instructions from the Child Car Seats association.
Check your vehicle is safe. Most garages offer a winter check service which covers essential elements to keep your vehicle road safe during the winter.
Antifreeze and screen wash are winter essentials for car owners, however both are poisonous to children so it’s important that these are kept well out of their reach at all times.
Finally, why don’t you sign up to weather warning alerts? There are a number of free weather applications where you can receive weather warnings for your region so you don’t get caught out.