TIPS: Incorporating Safety into Your Program’s Policies and Practices

Now that it is National Safety Month, it’s a great time to review the written safety policies in your program.  Documenting these procedures and sharing them with families and staff provides a vital form of communication and planning for everyone.  Reviewing these plans often with the children in your program can provide the critical calm and efficiency needed if an emergency arises.

Sharing with families:

When adding safety items to your program’s family handbook, written agreement or contract, try to approach the information from the family’s perspective.  You may want to consider the following:

  • Important safety information such as fire drills and emergency evacuation procedures, drop off/pick up policies, weather emergencies and emergency closings
  • How your program addresses these issues
  • How families are involved in addressing these issues

To address internet safety, consider both the children and families.  What limits do you place on internet access in your program for children, including time spent, sites accessed and supervision?  What do you expect of families when they take photos on your field trips, when visiting your program, and when sending electronic devices with their children? By including this information in your program’s handbook, you are further developing the policies and procedures of your program and providing helpful information to the families you serve.

 

Sharing with staff:

If your program has staff, it is important to communicate your program’s safety procedures and policies.  You may want to consider the following:

  • Safety issues that directly affect your staff such as entry and exit safety, confidentiality of personal information, workplace harassment, personal injury, and daily playground safety checks
  • Procedures to protect your staff

Again, consider the question of internet safety.  How should your staff facilitate internet access for the children in your program? How are staff photos and images shared online?  What internet access is permissible for staff while at work?  What procedures should staff follow when on the internet at work?  Who should staff contact when there is an issue with internet safety?

Sharing with children:

As you are familiarizing children with safety procedures, consider using visual aids, hands-on activities, practice and problem-solving to help them understand what procedures are in place and why they are important. Consider the following ideas to help children adopt your program’s safety procedures:

  • Create reminders of your safe practices. Engage children in creating signs, posters, and charts that can be posted in your program to remind them of safe choices, behaviors, and actions.
  • Conduct a safety walk. These could occur inside or outside. Children can walk around and point out safety items such as locks, fire extinguishers, safety gates, table bumpers and outlet covers. Why are these items there?  How do they keep everyone safe?  How many safety items are there?  These walks can also be done in reverse looking for items and areas that are not safe.  What could be done to make them safe?
  • Have a “Fun-in-the-Sun” day. Talk about why shade is important. Where are our shady areas at different times of the day? Make up games using sunny areas and shady areas.  Why do we wear sunscreen and hats?

Documenting your program’s safety considerations for both families and staff (in a handbook, contract or written agreement is part of the requirements of Maryland EXCELS for ADM 1 (policies/practices shared with families) and ADM 10 (policies/practices shared with staff).  It also demonstrates your program’s quality commitment to the security and safety of both the staff and children in your care.