Educators catching coronavirus must spur urgent hygiene and safety guidelines for the whole ECEC sector
United Workers Union, the early childhood union, is renewing calls for centres that are failing to deliver the highest standards of hygiene and safety during the coronavirus crisis to be shut down.
The call comes following alarming news for the sector, with the union being told that two educators in Sydney have been admitted to ICU for coronavirus.
The union is demanding that all early education facilities across Australia follow the union’s 6 point plan for hygiene and safety – if they cannot implement this plan they should not be operating. Educators and families must feel safe during this crisis.
The union’s plan includes temperature checks for children upon arrival, increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and adequate time for increased cleaning and hygiene implementation. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.
The union’s calls are in line with the updated advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), whereby the committee has recommended risk mitigation measures in ECEC, including the exclusion of staff, children and visitors with fevers or respiratory illness.
AHPPC’s and the union’s advice must now be supported with strict guidance from the Federal and state and territory governments.
Helen Gibbons, director of early childhood education at United Workers Union says, “We are deeply concerned at the news that early childhood educators are receiving treatment for coronavirus in ICU.
“Although it is still unclear how the educators were exposed to the virus, this news shows the very real risks in early childhood settings.
“Temperature checks must be mandatory and anyone with a fever should be excluded from centres. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.
“Action must be implemented across the sector now. My clear advice to every educator is, if your centre will not work with you to implement the safety plan and as a result you feel you are at risk you should not be working.
“The Federal Government and state and territory health departments must also commit to this plan. This is the wake-up call. It is not business as usual. There is too much at stake.
“Educators and families across Australia must have confidence that early education is as safe as possible for everyone during the current crisis.”
United Workers Union plan for increased hygiene and safety in ECEC:
- Pre-entry Screening: Every child must have their temperature taken by an educator in the foyer of the centre before being admitted, every single day they access the centre. The child must have a temperature reading no higher than 37.5 degrees. If it is higher than that the child will be refused access to the centre and the parent will be told to take the child home. The educator conducting the pre-entry screening must be covered in appropriate PPE (that includes a duck mask as well as gloves).
- Adequate PPE: Before a centre is opened up each morning to receive children it must be satisfied that it has enough PPE for the next 48 hour period as a minimum. This includes antibacterial soap; disposable gloves;; thermometers; sterilising equipment; cleaning detergent and disinfectant; cleaning mops and buckets; antibacterial floor cleaner; toilet paper and nappies. If the centre does not have enough PPE it should not open and receive any children until such time as it does.
- Adequate cleaning: High traffic areas of the centre must be comprehensively cleaned every 2 hours. Door knobs, hand rails, coded door entries, exit buttons etc. Every toy and every surface must be comprehensively cleaned 2 times per day. At the end of each day, after the last child leaves, the entire centre, including all objects and surfaces must be comprehensively cleaned.
- Adequate staffing: Additional staff must be rostered to be available to do the cleaning. Educators cannot be responsible for doing deep cleaning and care and educate the children in their room at the same time.
- Hygiene: Educators and children must have hands washed on entry to the centre, before and after consuming food and drink, after going to the bathroom, after cleaning children’s faces, before and after playing with toys, AND on the hour, every hour.
- Staggered times: Children’s starting and finishing times must be staggered to enable social distancing and transitional meal times must be observed.
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