Combatting the Spread of Infection at Childcare Centres
Infection can be spread through direct physical contact between people, airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing or from contact with surfaces and objects. Children in child care are constantly in contact with toys, furniture and floor and bench surfaces which poses a risk that children will be exposed to and spread infectious illnesses. While it is not possible to prevent the spread of all infections, childcare centers can take steps
to create a hygienic environment to minimize the spread of disease.
The Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) released a Guide to the National Quality Standard which states in Element 3.1.2 on page 89 "Premises, furniture and equipment are safe, clean and well maintained". Under ACECQA's National Quality Framework (NQF) is the National Quality Standard (NQS) which consists of seven quality areas, each containing standards and elements that children's education and care services are assessed and rated against. The third area is "Physical Environment". You can view all seven here.
In June 2013, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the 5th Edition of "Staying Healthy" which has the new rules for childcare centre hygiene that were introduced in February 2013. The rules state that all toys, door handles, floors, bathrooms and cushion covers be washed daily. You can download the full report here. It states that "particular attention should be given to bathrooms, floors, door handles and nappy changing surfaces." These are surfaces that children, parents and staff are constantly in contact with and are the most common surfaces for transfer of bacteria.Infection Control Steps
The first thing any childcare centre should do is engage an external cleaning company for as many days a week as possible. When setting budgets, priority should be given to cleaning. Having an external professional cleaning company can greatly assist in preventing dirt and dust build up, which can harbour microorganisms which cause infection in addition to keeping cobwebs out and keeping the main surfaces that children and adults come into contact with frequently, being floors and surfaces, well sanitised.
Having an external cleaner to clean your childcare centre means that they will follow a strict cleaning schedule to ensure all areas of your centre are cleaned regularly. If your budget is tight, then as a minimum, have your cleaners do all floors, bathrooms and surfaces ensuring each of these are cleaned and sanitised. In addition to this, you should schedule an annual strip and seal of all vinyl floors and steam cleaning all carpets twice yearly at the least.
Other steps that childcare centre staff can take to prevent the spread of infection are:
- Empty bins regularly throughout the day and replenish liners
- Clean and disinfect surfaces, especially change tables and food preparation and eating surfaces. Anti bacterial wipes are ideal for this so you should keep a good stock of these, even see if your cleaning company can supply them
- Sweep hard floors and mop with a hospital grade disinfectant.
- Sanitise hands regularly throughout the day and encourage the children and adults to do the same. Ensure there are plenty of hand sanitiser stations throughout the centre and at reception and ensure they are regularly replenished
- Place anti bacterial wipe stations in key locations throughout the centre and ensure they are replenished – this could be something you get your cleaner to do also.