More and more services are offering parents and carers a tea or coffee, and sometimes even freshly baked treats, at morning drop-off.
While this is great for building relationships with families and convenient for parents rushing to work, serving food and hot beverages in the same place as babies and young children is inherently risky.
Understand the risks
Burns and scalds
Almost every day in Queensland, 1 child aged up to 4 is taken to hospital by ambulance after experiencing a burn* and 3 children under 4 are treated at an emergency department for a burn injury.**
Many burns are from scalds from hot liquids such as beverages including coffee and tea, hot tap water and spilled food, such as soup and noodles.
These injuries often require skin grafts and can result in scarring.
Busy times like drop off increase the risk of such accidents.
All it takes is a distracted adult and a cuppa left on the edge of a table for a curious child to reach up and grab the cup, spilling the hot liquid over themselves.
One in 10 Australian infants has a food allergy.***
Most will grow out of their allergy to milk, egg, soy and wheat in childhood.
But sesame, seafood, peanut and tree nut allergies are usually lifelong.
For as long as a person is allergic, they are at risk of a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction.
Good hygiene has proven effective in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
This includes washing hands regularly, particularly on arrival, before and after eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or using the toilet.
If preparing treats on site, make sure food handlers follow NHMRC hygiene guidance in
staying healthy: preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.
Understand the importance of risk mitigation and amending your child-safe environment policy
Before offering families hot beverages and food, asses any risks, consider what precautions you need to take to mitigate risks and what policies and procedures you will need to ensure children are safe, healthy and well.
Under section 167 of the National Law, approved providers must demonstrate they are taking every reasonable precaution to protect children from harm and any hazard likely to cause injury.
Ask yourself the following questions when determining how you will mitigate the risks associated with providing hot drinks and food to parents and carers:
- Will your service offer only hot beverages?
- Or food as well?
- When will adults collect their hot beverage or food—when entering the service, or exiting?
- Is it takeaway or can they relax in a parent lounge or kitchen?
- How will you ensure beverage and food preparation is hygienic?
- Will parents and carers need to walk through any areas where there are children?
- Will they serve themselves?
- If so, who will manage the self-service area and how?
- What type of cups will your service use – disposable or non-disposable?
- If disposable, are the lids screw on and secure or do they come off easily if dropped or bumped?
- Can an adult open the entry and exit gates or doors one-handed while holding food or hot beverages?
- Is the entry and exit foyer wide enough for people to pass each other without bumping?
- Does your service’s insurance cover include burns or scalds?
- Will you allow adults holding children who are unable to walk to make or drink a hot beverage?
- Can adults making a hot beverage thermostatically control its temperature?
- Will you make sure adults adhere to Kidsafe’s recommendation of 50°C?
- Does the service have a burns and scalds action plan?
- How will educators and staff manage allergic reactions?
- Is your first-aid kit suitably equipped?
Consider these questions when undertaking your risk assessment. Use your answers to amend the child-safe environment policy you are required to keep under regulation 168 of the National Regulations.
Burns and scalds
Hot beverages scalds poster (PDF, 692KB) (Queensland Children’s Hospital Burns Centre)
Burns fact sheet (PDF, 410KB) (Kidsafe)
Prevention of childhood scalds fact sheet (PDF, 279KB) (Australia and New Zealand Burn Association)
Safety in the kitchen tip sheet (PDF, 1.6MB) (Kidsafe)
Burns first-aid (Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service)
A day in the life of a children’s burns nurse (Queensland Health)
Food and dietary guidelines (Queensland Department of Education)
Guidelines for the prevention of anaphylaxis in schools, preschools and childcare (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy)
First-aid plan for anaphylaxis (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy)
The kindy teacher who saved her own son after severe reaction to peanuts (Queensland Department of Education)
Staying healthy: preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services (National Health and Medical Research Council)
* Watt K. 2012. Injury in Queensland – A Snapshot. Report prepared for the Queensland Injury Prevention Council. Anton Breinl Centre, James Cook University.
** McKenzie K, Scott D, Limbong J, & Li E. 2011. Feasibility Of Using Health Data Sources To Inform Product Safety Surveillance In Queensland. National Centre for Health Information Research and Training, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology.
*** Australian Institute of Food Safety website, www.foodsafety.com.au.
10 Most Common Food Allergies in Australia.