Childcare programs may have numerous on-site visits during the year. The local fire marshals office, health department, state or local licensing agencies, and accreditation boards may perform on-site visits.
During an onsite visit, the childcare providers should demonstrate adequate and continual safety practices which ensure the well-being of the children, visitors, and workers.
Visiting personnel from regulatory agencies also will want to see that their specific regulations are being met. If a program follows regulations consistently, they will be prepared to show correct actions any time they are reviewed.
Checklists are an excellent way to show compliance with regulation and also facilitate training and preparation of staff and supervisors. However, staff and supervisors may find they are using several checklists to achieve different goals, or that their current checklists do not cover all the areas of concern.
To streamline actions, make sure regulations are consistently met, and ensure adherence to safety practices, it may be beneficial to create a single checklist specific to your own programs rules and needs. Each item on the checklist should reference the relevant regulation or in-house policy.
To create your own checklist, start by identifying the regulations and criteria you want to include. An obvious first step is to contact your local childcare licensing department for requirements.
It also is important to contact the local public health department, fire marshals office, local business licensing department, and other regulatory agencies in your area to find out what requirements should be met. Obtain and review written copies of the regulations from each relevant office. This will help you identify specific items for your checklist.
Other regulations and recommendations can be found in documents such as Caring For Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards, the Head Start Performance Standards, and the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation guidance.
Your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCRR) can provide you with information on health and safety requirements and will probably have sample checklists to get you started.
Once you have identified the criteria, you should determine the format for your checklist. There are many types of checklists available to childcare programs, such as those found at the Healthy Kids website or from other agencies.
Looking at your current checklists as well as researching other checklists will help you decide on a format. Many checklists include the task to be done, by whom, and the time frame. Some checklists include a place for initials, signatures, or checkmarks to monitor completion of recommended actions.
A checklist must be easy to adhere to and to follow so consult with staff to determine how to organize the checklist items. Some programs use checklists grouped by room, such as Bathroom Area or Inside Play Area. Other checklists are organized by task or topic, such as handwashing and toileting, center time, or outdoor play.
One advantage to organizing your checklist by room is that you can post relevant sections of the checklist in an easily accessible and visible place in each room or area. On the other hand, grouping items by task, such as sanitation or fire prevention, may be the preferred method for some programs.
Yet another approach may be to divide the items by responsible position (teacher, director, etc.). Choose the format that works best for your program and staff.
Other Checklist Items to Consider
Once criteria are identified and a format selected, the childcare staff should tailor the checklist to fit precisely within the program. In addition to specific regulatory items on a checklist, there are other safety concerns you may want to address. Incorporating general safety issues in your checklist helps ensure you are creating a healthy environment in which children can learn and grow.
- Review your agencys policies and procedures to determine other items to include in a comprehensive safety checklist. For example, you may add general maintenance to the checklist, which will assist in providing a comfortable and healthy environment for staff and children.
- Include scheduled inspections of the first aid kits to the checklist will ensure that items are available and current if an injury or incident occurs.
- Fire prevention personnel recommend that childcare programs post their business address on the outside of the facility where it is easily visible from the road. This will help emergency personnel find your location easily and quickly if required. Routine inspection of the business address numbers may be an added item to a general checklist.
- If a childcare program has porches, railings, or steps, include periodic inspection for splinters or cracks to keep small (and big) hands safe. Programs in hot and/or damp locations may consider adding routine inspections of pipe openings for mold, or checking air filters to keep them clean to the checklist.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Include inspection of fire alarm batteries to the checklist. Check batteries in flashlights and emergency equipment such as transistor radios, carbon monoxide alarms, or storm broadcast radios.
- Routinely checking doors and windows for cracks in need of sealing will enhance the air quality and will keep small insects from invading the premises, too. Checking window openings to make sure they are adequately secure and that no furniture or chairs are nearby on which children could crawl and reach the windows are certainly items to consider adding to a checklist.
Checklists are a great tool to use to ensure uniformity in safety practices, and they also are very helpful in training and preparation. In addition, they help staff and supervisors adhere to regulatory standards on a consistent basis.
A childcare program that uses a well-written, all-encompassing checklist correctly and consistently is taking the steps necessary to provide a safe environment for its children and staff. Keeping the checklist current will help demonstrate to any onsite visitors, whether they are regulatory inspectors or parents of children, that the health and safety of the children and staff are taken seriously and are of utmost importance.
Cynthia D. Sprouse, BA
Training & Technical Assistance Services, Western Kentucky University Project Associate
National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1313 L St. NW, Ste. 500, Washington DC 20090-7156; 800-424-2460; www.naeyc.org
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 395 E St. SW, Ste. 9200, Patriots Plaza Bldg, Washington DC 20201; 202-245-0625; www.cdc.gov/niosh
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Hwy., Bethesda MD 20814;301-504-7923; www.cpsc.gov
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, 370 LEnfant Promenade SW, 5th Fl. East, Washington DC 20447;202-690-6782; www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ccb/
Childrens Safety Zone, www.sosnet.com/Safety/safety1.html
Head Start Performance Standards, www.ecqnet.org/ecq/HeadStart/perfstand/index.cfm
Healthy Kids, www.healthykids.us
National Association of Child Care Regional and Referral Agencies, www.naccrra.org
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Education, Caring For Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards, nrc.uchsc.edu