Prioritising teachers' health and safety at M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla
EC professionals at M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla, Ms Helen Goh and Ms Sakinah, share how they prioritise preschool staffs’ health and safety, including having adult furniture for educators to rest and eat in comfort, and rotating infant bathing duties to reduce repetitive strenuous moment.
Centre Principal Ms Helen Goh engaging preschoolers in class
The safety and health of children and teachers have been the priority of preschools, even more so after the COVID-19 pandemic. Preschool teachers work closely with parents and children to establish a safe, nurturing and secure environment that gives every child the best possible start in life.
To Ms Helen Goh, Centre Principal of M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla, prioritising safety gives parents the confidence and assurance that their children are cared for in a conducive and safe learning environment. Ms Goh also believes that “happy teachers make happy children and happy parents” as preschool teachers are in a better state to positively influence the little ones and minimise risks in the preschool when their own well-being and safety are prioritised.
When Ms Goh learnt about the workplace safety webinar for preschools and the bizSAFE programme through emails from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), she decided to attend and find out how to further improve her preschool’s existing efforts in upholding the safety and well-being of her staff and the children.
“Prevention is better than cure. These programmes will help to avoid and minimise accidents that may happen at blind spots which may not be easily observable in our daily work environment,” Ms Goh shared.
All part of a national drive
In line with the Government’s continued efforts to improve the sector, ECDA announced new initiatives in 2021 to encourage preschools to tap on available support and resources to improve the workplace environment and enhance the safety, well-being, job satisfaction and productivity of preschool staff.
This was the outcome of the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment (OHSA) for the Early Childhood sector, commissioned by ECDA in 2019 to identify ways to improve the well-being of preschool staff. In collaboration with the Health Promotion Board and Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, the OHSA evaluated the work roles and environments of preschool staff and identified factors that impact their well-being.
Among the recommendations arising from the OHSA, ‘enhancing capabilities to manage workplace safety and health’ emerged as a key recommendation for preschools to review their own environments and/or processes for improved workplace safety and health.
Participants at the complimentary Workplace Safety in Preschools Workshop
To do so, preschools may participate in programmes by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council such as bizSAFE, a nationally recognised programme supported by the Ministry of Manpower to help build workplace safety and health capabilities. One of the valuable aspects about the bizSAFE programme is its structure which provides a strong foundation, concrete steps, and a comprehensive approach in addressing all aspects of health and safety.
About bizSAFE programme
bizSAFE is a nationally recognised capability building programme that helps companies build workplace safety and health capabilities. bizSAFE certification recognises a company's commitment to safety and health and positions it as an employer of choice. Although bizSAFE is a 5-step programme, preschools may apply for a level directly if it meets the level's requirements.
In November 2022, ECDA and the WSH Council organised a complimentary workshop customised for preschools where participants learnt how to identify safety hazards and conduct risk assessments at their centres. Participants of this half-day workshop were also allowed to apply for bizSAFE Level 2 directly, making their journey much simpler.
Putting knowledge into practice
Attending this workshop kickstarted M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla’s journey on the bizSAFE programme as it was where Ms Goh learnt the importance of a thorough assessment to identify risks and hazards, a structured evaluation to rank the severity of each risk, and the development of measures to eliminate, reduce, or confine the risk to an acceptable level.
Cautionary signage and bumper protectors on table corners
According to Ms Goh, this has enabled her preschool to take practical steps in its daily operations to create a safer environment. This includes putting up cautionary ‘wet floor’ signage during and after mopping. “This is an important area to be consistently vigilant about, as ‘slips, trips and falls’ were in the top five injuries at childcare centres from 2017 to 2021,” she explained.
Ms Goh and her team also reviewed and ensured that all corners in their preschool were protected by bumpers and old ones were replaced.
M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla also placed greater importance on the health and safety of their staff. “In our caregiving work, we are taking steps to reduce repetitive strenuous movements such as arching of backs and lifting that can lead to injury in the long term,” Ms Goh said. To minimise the risk of potential injury during bath time, the infant educarers take turns to shower the infants, so that they can rest at scheduled intervals.
Being mindful of ergonomics in the workplace, the preschool has also set up adult furniture for staff to have their meals in greater comfort. The staff can also use a foldable table and stools or to rest at a cosy corner set up specifically for them. All these changes were guided by the Risk Assessment form which the preschool used to analyse the risk levels for various work activities identified and to implement additional measures to eliminate, reduce or confine existing risks.
Ms Sakinah (right) sharing her newfound knowledge and experiences with fellow educators
For Senior Educator Ms Sakinah Binte Ahmad, the guidelines in the Risk Assessment form and knowledge shared by her Principal Ms Helen Goh have helped to reinforce her know-how in risk assessment and management and ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to mitigating potential risks in the preschool.
“I am now able to better plan classroom layouts and consider potential hazards which allows me to adjust our classroom spaces for children to explore and learn in a safer way,” she explained.
Posters of good hygiene habits serve as reminders for staff and children
M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla is also looking at the health and prevention of illness among their educators. Ms Sakinah observed that fellow teachers often fall sick when they are near sick children in the sick bay. “We are reinforcing better infection control measures and good personal hygiene habits such as hands washing to reduce the number of absentees who had fallen ill.”
“The biggest takeaway from the training is that we now recognise how simple actions can prevent accidents and at the same time, improve staff’s overall well-being and productivity,” Ms Goh reflected.
An upward journey
The pursuit of well-being and a good work environment ties in with the delivery of quality early childhood care and education and M.Y World @ Compassvale Ancilla is looking forward to its upward bizSAFE journey.
“For now, we are taking steps to ensure our risk controls are implemented, effective and sustained. My team and I do regular checks to monitor the measures in place, and we look forward to reviewing its effectiveness and making improvements as required,” Ms Goh said. Her preschool aims to eventually progress to bizSAFE Level 3 by the end of 2023.
Ms Goh’s goal for her preschool complements the preschool sector’s efforts to elevate the standard of early childhood education as a healthy and safe workplace where preschool teachers enjoy coming to work, growing in the profession, and excelling in their passion to nurture the next generation.
Sign up for the Workplace Safety in Preschools Workshop
Organised by ECDA and WSH Council, this complimentary workshop on enhancing workplace environment and staff well-being in the EC sector equips preschools with the knowledge and resources of providing a safe and supportive work environment and nurturing their staffs’ well-being. Preschools can register for the next workshop on 14 July 2023 here: https://go.gov.sg/wsh-preschool-webinar
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