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Back Care While Working In An Early Childhood Service

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One of the biggest hazards we face as early childhood Educators is back injuries. The amount of times we bend, stretch, lift throughout the day is endless and this can put a strain on your back, causing serious long term injuries. It's important to understand what causes back injuries while working in early childhood settings and how to avoid them.

The following information and strategies can be used as a general guide to help ensure back safety while working in an early childhood setting.

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working At Floor Level

  • Bracing / transferring weight / using leverage & support
  • Use of low sitting height stools, ottomans or cushions
  • Provision of sitting devices specifically for low height situations
  • Kneeling on one knee (knight’s position) or golfers’ kick for brief periods
  • Sitting or squatting on the floor
  • Avoid overreaching –prepare equipment & choose a position with the best access to children & equipment
  • Limit the duration of continuous periods when at lowest levels
  • Reduce clutter and improve the layout
  • Engage child assistance where possible

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working At Sitting Level

  • Adult chairs
  • Use adjustable chairs with backrests only?
  • Use chairs with a lower height range and narrower diameter 5-star base (ie. select chairs that are fit for the purpose).
  • Establish/identify the top of the backrest as a handgrip option when moving the chair.
  • Provide information, instruction & training on chair adjustment & use so these features are exploited by workers.
  • Reorganise floor clutter to enhance the capacity of workers to use these chairs in different areas.

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working With Cots

  • Need height adjustable cots so the top of the mattress is not lower than 650 mm.
  • Need height-adjustable side rails.
  • Adjustment features & side rail should be safe and easy to use for carers, babies & toddlers

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working Outside

  • Sort & store items relative to their shape, size & weight & their expected frequency of use –daily, weekly, seasonal.
  • Organise the storage location & method of specific items to match the item & their frequency of use. For example, containers on shelves, large toys on the floor underneath.
  • Use larger shelves, 600 + deep , to increase the storage capacity of the shelves. For example, Bunningsshelves are 840 mm deep & fit 1 large plastic tub (600 to 740 mm long).
  • Limit the height of the upper shelf so it is not higher than 1700 mm (provided large and / or heavy items (greater than 10 kgs) are not placed on the shelf
  • With outdoor storage, avoid the need to use steps to access higher storage levels
  • Purchase or protect outdoor structural / climbing equipment that can tolerate remaining outside
  • If necessary develop a security system such as chaining it together rather then carrying it into a shed or storeroom.
  • Store items close to their point of use, such as those used in the sandpit. Make them safe.
  • Use smaller, lighter sand pit covers with loop straps for grasping & sandbags with loop handles to hold the cover in place. If necessary use overlapping covers rather than a single larger, heavier cover.

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working Indoor

  • Sort & store items relative to their shape, size & weight & their expected frequency of use –daily, weekly, seasonal.
  • Organise the storage location & method of specific items to match the item & their frequency of use. For example, containers on shelves, large toys on the floor underneath.
  • Use larger shelves (where relevant & possible), 600 + deep, to increase the storage capacity of the shelves.
  • Limit the height of the upper shelf so it is not higher than 1700 mm (provided large and / or heavy items (greater than 10 kgs) are not placed on the shelf
  • Avoid the need to use steps to access higher storage levels –if possible.
  • If not, use the most stable options available & organise shelf height relative to step height.
  • Develop smaller, more stable block trolleys. Use 2 or 3 smaller ones to replace larger trolleys.
  • Use better designed trolleys. Bigger wheels, high handles & capacity to restrain or hold the load.
  • Expand the use of transparent containers. Select size relative to items they will contain to limit weight.
  • Store large tubs on an individual shelve or no more than 2 high

Strategies To Support Back Care While Working At Change Tables

  • Handles for steps to pull them out.
  • Rails for children to grasp when moving up & down steps.
  • Steps should lock into place when pulled out.
  • Minimise lifting children to & from steps & the bench.
  • Manipulate bench height with different thickness padding.
  • Consider side positioning of toddlers (provide it is safe).
  • Good access to items needed to sink & items on the bench & in shelves or lockers.

In early childhood education and care settings, injuries can often come from tasks like lifting children, moving heavy objects, and a lot of bending, twisting or reaching. It's important that as Educators we are given the necessary information and training to effectively work without risks to our health and to prevent back injuries.

References:
Early childhood education and care: Safety basics, Work Safe Victoria
Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Children's Services, Kindergarten Parents Victoria

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Last modified on Friday, September 13, 2019
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