Reality Alert: A childcare center employee fell and severely injured her shoulder when she attempted to step over a baby gate. The employee indicated later that she thought that she needed to quickly attend to an upset child on the other side of the gate. Instead of removing the gate, crossing to the other side, and then replacing the gate, she attempted to step over. When she did this she caught her foot on the top of the gate and fell. The injury to her shoulder was so significant it required surgery and left the shoulder permanently damaged. This story could have been much worse though, as she easily could have fallen on and seriously injured a child.
The Problem with Baby Gates
Childcare providers and parents often experience a high level of stress and feel they do not have enough time to remove and replace a baby gate in order to safely cross to the other side. While attending to a child quickly is important, this attitude can and does lead to costly and severe injuries. There is a potential for employees to trip and fall over baby gates and the possibility that they could fall on top of a child and significantly injury a small child. Slip, trip, and fall injuries are consistently the leading cause of injuries among childcare workers.
Preventing Baby Gate-Related Injuries
Falls over baby gates are too common especially considering that they are completely avoidable. They pose a danger to providers, children, and parents. A few simple steps can completely eliminate this hazard.
- Written Policy: Instituting a policy making it an offense if an employee steps over a gate will make employees aware of the problem and discourage them from doing it.
- Awareness: Inform all employees of the potential hazard to themselves and the children that they care for.
- Install taller baby gates: By installing baby gates that are at least 42 inches tall, it will be more difficult to even attempt stepping over the gate.
- Install swing close gates: These gates come equipped with an easy to open and close gate attached to the gate frame. If opening and closing a gate is easier, childcare provides in a rush are more likely to use the door as intended. If installing a swinging gate, be sure to also add finger guards to prevent door-related finger amputations.
- Install butler doors: These are permanently installed doors and it allows the employees to close the top portion of the door if they wish.
- Signs: Posting signs near existing baby gates can be an effective reminder to encourage staff and parents to properly open and close the gate versus stepping over them.