What's the difference between hazard and risk?

What's the difference between hazard and risk?

The terms "hazard" and "risk" are used quite a lot in early childhood. But what do they really mean, and what is the difference?

The terms "hazard" and "risk" are used quite a lot in early childhood. But what do they really mean, and what is the difference?

In the National Quality Standard, element 2.2.1 states that

"At all times, reasonable precautions and adequate supervision ensure children are protected from harm and hazard."

What does that mean? Does it mean that children can't climb a tree? Does it mean that our climbing equipment cannot be higher than 30cm? Does it mean that we shouldn't have scissors available to our pre-schoolers? What harm may children come to in our services? What hazards might they be potentially exposed to?

In recent years, more and more services have been embracing elements of risky play. We have seen an increase in experiences such as woodworking, tree climbing, the use of fire pits in services, and ventures into natural spaces. This is no accident. There is a shift towards embracing risky play opportunities - a shift that greatly benefits children. And yet, there are inherent risks with risky play. There is also quite a big difference between exposing children to a hazard, or putting them in harms way, and in allowing them to challenge themselves physically and emotionally through risk taking.

So, how do we understand the difference between hazard and risk, and know how to keep children safe?

We've put together a simple graphic to highlight the difference:

Hazards in our Early Childhood Service

Okay, so sharks are not usually a hazard that we will encounter in our early childhood services. But there are plenty of hazards that we need identify on a routine basis. Some hazards might include:

  • Pooling water in the playground after heavy rain
  • Cleaning supplies and chemicals used at the service
  • A redback spider who has taken up residence on your veranda
  • A bike with a broken handlebar

There are many more, of course, that will be relevant to your service.

So what is the risk?

If we look at the hazards above, and the definition above (as shown in our graphic) what would the risk be. If we know that hazard + exposure = risk, what would it look like if children (and adults) were exposed to these hazards?

  • Slipping in the water, drowning
  • Accidental ingestion or exposure, illness, death
  • Spider bite requiring hospitalisation
  • Child injuring themselves on the bike

Next week in our blog, we'll be talking more about how we assess and mitigate these types of risk using risk assessments - stay tuned!

How do we identify hazards?

As educators, we should always be alert to potential hazards in our environment. However, it is vital that we also have structures in place to routinely identify and manage hazards within our services. For many services this might look like a paper based safety check that is completed each morning, or a WHS check completed on a monthly basis. One of the most loved features of Sprout, is our checklist feature. Within the feature, you can create - using one of our carefully curated templates, or starting from scratch - checklists that ensure that your environment is free from hazards. For example, you might create a daily outdoor safety checklist. An educator can log into Sprout and work through the checklist. If, while completing the checklist, the educator identifies a hazard, they can report it straight away. They can even link it to an existing risk assessment or create a new one, and can create a task where relevant to ensure that appropriate action is taken. There's also time stamping so that you can see when the check was completed and who completed it.

For a demo of how this feature can help you identify and manage hazards in your service, get in touch today.

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