Health and safety in children’s nurseries

I got to thinking about health and safety in nurseries. After my first child was 8 months old I wanted to go back to work, to the job I loved and after considering the options decided to put him into a nursery.

But, the big question was which nursery and what should I look for? There were a number of things I wanted/needed to consider, including:

  • Location – it had to be near work
  • A garden – Some outside spaces are very limited
  • The staff – Were they friendly and approachable?
  • The nursery building – Was it clean and tidy, hygienic and well cared for?
  • Other parents opinions – what about their children’s experiences?
  • The Ofsted inspection report – how was it rated on the last inspection?

because I worked as an environmental health officer (EHO) – the last Health and Safety and Food Safety inspection reports for the nursery.

It was surprising that in ten years as an EHO I didn’t ever get a request to see inspection reports for any nursery in our district.  Was that because parents didn’t realise they were inspected by EHO’s or did they just rely on Ofsted or “assume everything would be alright”?

Would seeing these reports have helped a parent to make their decision? Do parents ask to look at risk assessments and safety policies, I suspect not but they are entitled to and some publish them on their websites.

Of course, the safety of a child is paramount for any parent leaving them in the care of someone else but what gives them the confidence to do that?  The Ofsted inspection report?  Yes, safety/safeguarding is one of the areas looked at but is not the only focus of the inspection and the nursery is often given notice of the visit (so how accurate is it?).  Inspections by EHO are now less likely to happen .

So, can one nursery give a parent greater confidence of its management of health and safety than another?  Maybe. Some large chains employ auditors to review their safety management systems but what about the smaller independents?  Would a parent be happier if they knew the nursery was proactive and had regular safety audits?  Would this have benefits to the nursery other than the obvious safety checks?  Could they promote this on their website or in their documentation and would it give them increased confidence in their safety management?

Only a parent or nursery owner can answer these questions but the time to think about doing regular checks or getting them done is before something happens not after.

Here are hazards I’ve spotted during nursery visits:

Nails sticking out of a playhouse that was a bit worse for wear (risk of cuts/injury)
Sock puppet making (age 0 – 2): Buttons were glued on and then fell off (risk of choking)
No finger trap guards on doors (trapping / amputation risk), particularly heavy fire doors
Wrong sized screws used to put a brand new playhouse together. They had been screwed from the outside in and very sharp points were left sticking through into the playhouse (risk of cuts / injury)
Plants in a nursery garden not checked or the harmful ones removed (poisoning, allergy, rashes) see a list of Potentially harmful garden plants here.

Electrical wiring to a CD player draped across a cot (strangulation) and the floor (trip hazard)
Blind cords hanging down (risk of strangulation)

A sharp corner on a table at child eye height

In the News:

The cord of a linen bag draped over the corner of a cot became wrapped around the neck of a 16-month-old child
A 22-month-old girl choked to death on a jelly cube during messy play
A 3-year-old died after becoming entangled on a rope on a slide
A child died after being given a milk product he was allergic to
A 13-month-old died by suffocating under a pile of beanbags he had crawled under when a worker then sat on them to read a story
a 9-month-old choked to death on mashed potato during lunch


There are of course lots more.  If you are a nursery owner and would like an independent audit please call 07786622741 email or use our Contact Us page