All of us want our children to be safe, but it’s not always easy. The combination of their body and brain immaturity places them in the age group with the highest risk of harm.

It pays for all of us to be mindful of specific risks to every child’s safety, and to do what we can to minimise the chances of them being hurt.

Top Five Safety Risks to Young Children

1.Drowning

Drowning is the biggest single danger to children aged less than five years. Pool fencing has made a huge difference to minimising the risk.

If you centre has a swimming pool, ensure that the fence and gate are regularly checked and serviced. Drowning can happen anywhere there is water, even in a dish as shallow as a dog bowl. Children are more at risk when their parents or carers are distracted, relaxing or aren’t familiar with the layout of the place they’re visiting.

2.Being a passenger in a car

Always use a correctly fitted and approved safety harness for babies/children in your care. If you’re not sure what’s right, check here. Unrestrained children are five times more likely to be killed or injured in an accident in comparison with those who are correctly restrained.

Make it a rule that for every trip, every person in the car is restrained. This is just one of those non-negotiable childcare decisions.

3.Poisoning

Children are naturally curious and orally fixated. They explore the world with their mouth and no matter how closely they are supervised, they will look for any opportunity to drink/eat/inhale whatever product comes into their proximity. Some almost turn this tendency into an art form.

Lock up cleaning products, medicines, garden sprays and poisons. Never decant liquids into unnamed containers and put everything up out of reach.

4.Nursery Furniture

Although the Australian Standards for manufacture of children’s/nursery furniture are very high, many imported products find their way through the regulations. Some items are released onto the market without meeting guidelines and then need to be recalled.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) publishes a guide to infant and nursery products which will help you make safer decisions.

Always follow the safe sleeping guidelines recommended by Sids and Kids.

Avoid putting a baby in a walker. No matter what safety features it includes, walkers are not a safe piece of nursery furniture. Importantly, they limit the opportunity for floor time.

5.Falls

Falls represent the single largest cause of injury to children. Learning to walk can take months and many hours of practice. Use gates and child safety barriers in your centre around steps, stairs and balconies.

Plan as many safe zones in your centre as possible, which won’t pose a risk to your little one’s safety. Ensure no-go zones are clearly sectioned off and unable to be accessed by children in your care.

Other Safety Risks to Children
  • Fires/burning. Check with your local fire station or fire authority to see if they’ll do a check of your centre and make recommendations about fire safety, extinguishers, fire blankets and safe evacuation. Have working smoke detectors and regularly replace batteries.
  • Dog bites – some dog breeds are more likely to bite than others. Check with your local council and RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
  • Scalds and burns – consider getting a plumber to install a hot water tempering device on bathroom taps. This will control the temperature of the hot water to a level which will not cause scalds or burning. Make a point of always turning saucepan handles to the back of the stove. Buy a cord keeper for jugs in the centre's kitchen – it will shorten the length of the cord so it stays clear of the bench top and little fingers.
  • Pedestrian injury. Always supervise young children near roads.
What else can I do to Keep a Baby Safe?
  • Use childproof locks and lock cupboards and drawers to keep hazards away from little fingers.
  • Visit a Kidsafe House in your state and see what products are available to buy. Stove guards, childproof locks, slip resistant mats and tap guards are all on show so you’ll be able to see how they work.
  • Visit a large hardware outlet and check the range of safety products for children.
  • Make safety rules which are clear to everyone old enough to understand them.
  • Regularly check childproof gates and pool gates to make sure they’re working as they need to.
  • Put skid-proof linings on the underside of rugs. Or buy a commercially available spray which helps minimise movement.
  • Use suction mats in the children’s bathroom and shower. But make sure you wet the bath/shower recess first to ensure the suction pads grip on.
  • Lock away all medications and chemicals. If you have a choice, buy products with childproof lids and make sure they’re screwed on correctly.
  • Secure televisions and stereos. Kids who are climbers see every piece of furniture as an opportunity to scale their own “Everest”.
  • Use soft fall flooring or matting underneath swings and outside play areas.
  • Bare feet can be safer than socks and slippery soled shoes. If you have a learning walker, use socks which have grips on their soles.
  • Take the time to wipe up spills straight away.
  • Always strap a baby into their pram and/or highchair. Three point harnesses are considered the safest option.
  • Always use the carabineer (hand/wrist strap) on a baby’s pram. Three wheeler prams can act as “sails” on a windy day and roll quickly on any slope.
  • Avoid using slippery cleaning products on floors. Babies and young children have smooth skin on the soles of their feet and can easily slip.

This article was written for Sleep Smart by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse.

For more information on Babies and Sleep, please refer to our Guide to Settlings Infants course. This course also comes as part of our convenient 3-course Infant Bundle.