Many business owners assist working parents by allowing employees to bring their children to work, at least occasionally. In areas where traditional daycare facilities may be unavailable, some employers are setting up daycare services on-site.
While this arrangement was more frequent during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and was only temporary in many cases, business owners and parents should consider the added exposure of allowing kids at work.
Here are five tips business owners should consider when allowing children in their facilities and parents should think about when determining the best arrangements for their children:
Most facilities were not designed to accommodate childcare resulting, in most cases, in a very different occupancy than originally anticipated. It is critical to determine where children will and will not be allowed on-site. Children are very curious and will naturally be drawn to anything new or unique to them. They should not have physical access to any equipment, tools or machinery common to many workplaces. Building improvements such as physical barriers and access control may be necessary to assure that boundaries are carefully considered and followed.
2-UNDERSTAND THE PHYSICAL HAZARDS
Once you determine where children are allowed, review those areas to ensure they are set up safely and free of hazards. Ask yourself: What hazards exist? How can I make this area safe? Some key hazards to look for include exposures to electrical outlets and cords, sharp edges on tables and chairs and anything that may produce heat that is within a child’s reach. Keep supplies needed for sanitization stored properly and secured. It is easy to overlook the potential dangers that exist with common items. For example, hand sanitizer is alcohol-based and flammable. Install bottles or dispensers away from exit routes and ignition sources.
3-BE READY IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY
Most emergency plans for businesses were written with adult occupants in mind. If you consider allowing children of any age on-site, be sure to review and update your plans for this exposure. Train your employees and conduct monthly drills. Be sure that any location children will occupy has at least two exits and those exits lead to safe areas. Make your local police and fire departments aware of the occupancy change in the building so they can respond appropriately if needed. Your local authorities can help you comply with the life safety code for the change in occupancy. Review door hardware, locks and emergency lighting. Be sure smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are operational and have been properly maintained.
4-KNOW WHO IS PROVIDING CARE
Will childcare be provided by in-house personnel or will outside help be brought in to assist? Regardless of who will be caring for the children, be aware that the exposure to sexual abuse looms large with any childcare operation, even if it is only temporary. Require criminal background checks for anyone who will be providing direct care or supervision of children, even if the caregiver is a long-term, trusted employee. Train anyone interacting with the children. Check with your state’s Department of Human Services or similar agency for any recommended and required training. Training should cover: how to recognize signs of abuse, sexual and physical; your state’s mandated reporting laws; policies related to bathroom breaks; and the importance of speaking up if any questionable conduct is observed. Finally, be sure to control access for any visitors that may be on-site who you are unfamiliar with.
If no organized childcare is offered, make sure parents understand rules and limitations for supervising their own children in their work areas.
5-HAVE A PLAN
A safe and successful program is well thought out and anticipates how to address a child’s daily needs. Will food be prepared on site? If brought on site, is refrigeration available to maintain safe temperatures and storage? Will areas be identified for rest or naps? Are there any special needs, such as medication management and the storage and security of those medications? It is also very important to know how to keep the children busy while they are on-site. Bored children will find things to do on their own, so be ready with a variety of ways to keep them occupied in a safe and educational manner.
From a risk management perspective, businesses must recognize the new and increased risks associated with any change in their operations, especially when those changes introduce the care and custody of children. Additional resources that may be helpful can be found through the Administration for Children & Families, Childcare.gov and Ready.gov/kids
And as always, be sure to consult with your legal counsel and independent insurance agent for insight into any legal or insurance coverage issues you may not have considered related to these new, temporary operations. Policyholders of The Cincinnati Insurance Company may contact their agent to request loss control inspection services.
This loss control information is advisory only. The authors assume no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.