Physical Hazards in Childcare Settings Expert Article

This article addresses safety in childcare settings by revisiting the fact pattern from a door injury case. Young children are still developing the cognitive abilities necessary to identify and avoid potential hazards they may encounter during daily activity. Adults entrusted with the care of young children should be aware of any potential physical hazards and act to protect children from harm.

Finger Injuries in Door Expert Witness

Physical Hazards in Childcare Settings

The number one priority of childcare providers is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in their care. Young children are a vulnerable population, so special care must be taken to proactively identify and control hazards within their environment.

There are many physical hazards commonly found in childcare settings, such as furniture that tips-over, unsafe toys, sharp objects, or items that may become projectiles if thrown.  This article, however, will focus on digit entrapment hazards. Although entrapment hazards may be found in a multitude of settings encompassing a variety of ages, this article will focus on one specific case in an early childhood care setting.

Case Description – Finger Entrapment

This case involves a toddler whose finger was severed after it was trapped in a door hinge. The incident occurred in a classroom for toddlers, in an area where a half door was installed to separate the classroom space from an adjoining food -prep kitchen area.

Only adults were permitted in the kitchen area, and the door had been installed for access control. The facility was aware of potential hazards involving the door and had posted signs warning staff members to be visually aware of children when going in and out of the door.

On the day of the incident, one of the teachers in the classroom opened the door, entered the kitchen, and closed the door behind her without ensuring the area around the door was clear of children. As a result, the young child was able to place their hand within the open space between the door and the door jamb. The force of the closing door severed a portion of the child’s finger.

Door Hinge Injury Expert

Controlling Hazards in the Environment

The facility in this case knew that the door presented a potential hazard to children. Their posting of warning signs for adults to watch for children was evidence of such. However, their reliance on a warning, without preventing exposure to the hazard, proved to be inadequate and failed to meet the standard of care.

Eliminating the hazard altogether is the most effective way to ensure safety. In this instance, the door was necessary for restricting access to the classroom’s kitchen area, so elimination was not practical.

In this case, guarding against exposure to the hazard (the open space between the door and door jamb), in addition to the posted warning signs, would have been a reasonable preventative action to take to protect children from injury. For a moderate cost, the facility could have easily installed finger pinch guards to the existing door and effectively guarded against the hinge hazard of a swinging door.

Caregivers control the hazards in their environment in a variety of ways, and in some instances, modification of that environment is necessary to ensure the safety of children in their care.

Investigating Childcare Injuries

The Childcare and Supervision experts at Robson Forensic can assist in the review and examination of childcare and educational facilities, policies, procedures, equipment, staffing, and supervision as they relate to a broad range of incidents.

To connect with the appropriate expert for your case, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Janice S. P. Inman, Childcare Operations & Child Supervision Expert

Janice S. P. Inman, MS.Ed., CPSI

Childcare Operations & Child Supervision Expert
Janice Inman is a childcare and supervision expert with over 40 years of experience teaching pre-school through Junior Kindergarten, as well as serving as Program Director for a large childcare… read more.

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