Introduction – The importance of risk assessment

By the end of this online course you will have a basic, practical knowledge and understanding of risk assessment to help keep the children you care for and any adults in your workplace safe and sound.

This course has been developed in line with national health and safety legislation, the EYFS framework and Ofsted guidelines.

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What is risk assessment?

In very simple terms, risk assessment is about finding out what you can do to keep people safe by carefully working out whether an activity or behaviour could cause harm.

We assess risk all the time in our every day lives. Think about what you do before crossing a road. Do you look in both directions to check that there is no traffic coming? By doing that you are carrying out a risk assessment to keep you safe from harm.

As adults, we are usually able to make our own judgements about the risks that affect us but babies and young children are not able to do this. It is therefore our responsibility to protect not only our own health and safety but also that of the babies and young children in our care.


Risk Assessment and the law

    There are 2 areas of legislation that Early Years settings must comply with:

  • British health and safety law (Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) – this states that risk assessments must be carried out in every workplace in order to work out what might cause harm to people and decide whether reasonable steps are in place to prevent that harm. Risk assessments MUST be written down if there are 5 or more employees at the premises.

  • The Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – this sets out the legal requirements that all providers must meet. One of the requirements for anyone providing for the early years age group is that risk assessments MUST be carried out in two circumstances which are:

    1. Outings
    2. Premises and equipment

    Although risk assessments for the EYFS do not have to be in writing, it is good practice to do so.

    This is what Ofsted says about recording risk assessment:

    “The risk assessment itself does not necessarily need to be in writing, although it is good practice to do so. Providers must keep a record of the aspects that need checking (that is, the things the risk assessment identifies as potential hazards or risks) and when and by whom they have been checked. Our interpretation is that this record must be in writing. Although the Statutory Framework does not explicitly state it should be a written record we do not believe it is possible to meet this requirement without the record being written down. This applies to childminders as well as childcare providers. One example is the outdoor space, which you may wish to check before going outside each day especially if it is possible that other people may throw rubbish or items like broken glass.

    The requirement for a record of risk assessment to be in writing is no different than any other requirement for records, such as a daily record of children’s names and attendance, or a record of accidents and any first aid treatment given.

    In summary you need to carry out a risk assessment of your premises and equipment at least once a year and more often if things change. You need to keep a written record of what you have identified that you need to check; how often it needs checking; and when and by whom it was checked.”

    Click here for further details of Ofsted’s Requirements for risk assessments: Ofsted Requirements for risk assessments

Why risk assessment matters

    Risk assessment encourages people to think about what could go wrong so that they can control the situation before accidents and injuries happen.

    Accidents are a normal part of childhood and are often due to young children’s innately lively and curious nature. Fortunately, most of these accidents cause no more damage other than a few tears. Carrying out thorough and regular risk assessments helps to ensure that any accidents in early years settings are minor.

    However, sometimes more serious accidents do happen due to someone else’s negligence and in the worst case scenario a child may die because of a failure to adequately assess risk.

    An example of this is the tragic and avoidable case of a 22 month old child who died at a nursery after choking on a cube of jelly in a sensory play activity. At the inquest the judge criticised the health and safety systems the nursery had in place, noting that there was “no written assessment of the risks of raw jelly and in particular their choking hazard”.

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