Safety at Forest School

Our Commitment to Safety

We will do everything necessary to help our customers, staff and other stakeholders experience Forest School safely. Safety is our number one priority. We recognise that although we do not have complete control over the sites that we use for our Forest School programmes, events and workshops, the environmental conditions during these services and the behaviour of others, we do have the ability and the responsibility to create a culture of safety and to support and empower our young learners to take actions which help to keep themselves and others safe whilst at Forest School. 

We know that a systematic and rigorous approach to safety based on risk assessment and management can result in a healthy and safe environment for our operations, with the objective of minimising incidents and accidents. We will continually review and improve our procedures to ensure that they continue to be fit for purpose. 

This policy sets out Wildlings' scope of control and influence over safety and our safety procedures set out the actions that we undertake to create a safe environment for learning in the outdoors. 

Relevant Legislation:

Workplace Safety and Health (Incident Reporting) Regulations

The Workplace Safety and Health Act

 
Aspects of safety that we control

​The aspects of our operations over which we have control are listed below. Where we have direct control, we are better able to ensure safety through the control of hazards and management actions. We control:

  • The sites that we select for our sessions and the areas that we set up camp during each session.

  • Our risk assessment process and its implementation. 

  • Our knowledge and awareness of the risks posed by the tropical environment, such as poisonous plants, venomous snakes and biting insects. 

  • Our choice of experiences to introduce during our sessions. and our assessment of the risks associated with these experiences and the steps that we take to manage these risks, such as the selection of personal protective clothing and careful site set-up. 

  • Equipment, including tools, and the maintenance and storage of this equipment. 

  • The substances that we bring along to Forest Schools such as paints and cooking ingredients.

  • Our efforts to train staff and volunteers on our safety policy and procedures. 

  • The process of setting clear physical and behavioural boundaries for our learners at Forest School.

  • The advice that we give to customers in our handbook and on our website. 

  • Articles and advice that we produce in our blog, and articles for our partners. 

  • Our first aid qualifications and the suitability of our first aid kit. 

 
Aspects of safety that we influence

There are aspects which affect our operations which we can only influence, or manage our response to when they occur. These aspects are out of our direct control but we have a responsibility to do our best to influence or respond to these to create the desired outcomes of minimised accidents and incidents. These areas of influence are:

  • All aspects related to the weather and climate.

  • The occurrence of natural hazards such as snakes, ants, and hornets' nests, falling tree branches and fruit, and so on. 

  • The choice of clothing and gear bought along to Forest School by our customers. 

  • Adherence to our snack time rules. 

  • The decisions made by other site users and their chosen interactions with our Forest School group.

  • The actual chosen behaviour of a child or adult at any point in time.

 
Site Selection

With regards to ensuring that we are as safe as possible at Forest School, we carefully take the following safety aspects into consideration when selecting our sites and the areas within these sites that we occupy:

  1. Wildness: We want our customers to experience nature and to sense its wildness, to feel in awe at its beauty and excited by the unknowns, however, in the tropics we face real dangers, from venomous snakes for example. Therefore all of our sites will be managed to some extent by the landowner enabling us to experience the space but to also be able to recognise the hazards so that we can manage them. The older the child, the wilder the space we can visit and visa versa. 

  2. Access and exit points: during certain times of the year thunder and lightning can strike quickly. If we are deep in the forest with no shelter we are exposed and in danger. We select sites which have plenty of access and exit points so that we can leave quickly if we are struck by adverse weather and during certain times of the year we will only venture a little way into the natural spaces, we will venture further during dry season. 

  3. Shelters: although we can erect tarp shelters to cover our gear and ourselves if it is raining, in the tropics these shelters will do little when heavy rain and thunder strikes. All of our sites have existing concrete shelters big enough for our group, and some sites with more modern facilities even have lightning protection built in. 

  4. We pay attention to warning signs on display and we do not set up camp where there are visible warnings of danger, such as falling rocks, heavy fruit (if it is fruit season), snake nests, and so on. 

  5. Before selecting a site for an excursion or new regular sessions we complete a site survey, a full risk assessment, and for new regular sessions, a trial session. 

 
Education

To create a culture of safety, we must continuously educate our stakeholders (staff, parents, other adults attending Forest School, and children). Education will include:

  1. Our risk game, played with the children attending Forest School to remind them of the risks around us and how they can respond. 

  2. An annual staff policy and procedure review. 

  3. Bi-annual updating of first aid qualifications. 

  4. Safety briefings at the start of excursions to new sites. 

  5. Awareness raising through our newsletter of our approach to safety. 

  6. Making our risk assessments available upon request.

  7. Accident and incident review and actions for improvement undertaken by staff.  

 
Hazardous Substances

Hazardous substances include items that the Forest School Leader may bring along to Forest School to provide an experience for the learners as well as substances which exist at the site already or are bought along by other people. Hazardous substances we have identified include:

  1. Latex, both natural latex bought along to Forest School to illustrate experiences relating to the Rubber Tree and latex from plant species such as that leaching from pong pong trees and species of mango. Latex is poisonous if ingested and can be a skin irritant. 

  2. Poisonous seeds, such as cashew, pong pong and barringtonia. Such poisonous items will not be used at Forest School, but discarded and traces removed before the remaining seed pods are used. 

  3. Paints and glues: we will only bring non-toxic water based child friendly paints and glues to Forest School and use natural glues and pigments when ever possible for creative activities. 

  4. Butane gas canisters for our portable hob are safety checked before use by the Leader and only handled by the Forest School Leader. 

 
Equipment

The Forest School Leader will bring along all of the equipment needed for the session that they are running. They will make use of as many natural items as possible in the setting for the session. The types of equipment that the Leader may bring which are of relevance to safety are:

  1. Tools. we have a separate risk assessment for tool use. All tools are introduced when age appropriate, when the tool serves a learning purpose and they are maintained by the Forest School Leader.  

  2. First aid kit: every leader will bring along a well stocked first aid kit. 

  3. Comfort items: the leader will bring along tarps and a spare inflatable pillow so that children can have somewhere to rest which is especially important if they come down with an illness during their session. 

  4. Ropes: all ropes used for hanging swings and baring a person's weight are load bearing professional climbing ropes. 

  5. Food mat, plates and cups: all of these are washed and packed carefully before each session to ensure that they are clean and hygienic. 

  6. Fires equipment for our fire lighting and outdoor cooking sessions: all fire lighting and safety equipment is pre-checked before a session. We have a separate risk assessment for the use of fires. 

 
Natural Hazards

Natural hazards are out of our control but present at the sites that we use. We are responsible for checking for hazards during our sessions and helping others to undertake this activity as well through introducing risk-focussed experiences and reminders. The hazards that we have identified are site-specific but include:​

  1. Falling trees, branches​ and fruit.

  2. Aggression from monkeys.

  3. Poisonous flora if eaten..

  4. Poisonous flora if touched, including fungi.

  5. Venomous and non-venomous snakes.

  6. Biting insects and arachnids, including ants, mosquitoes, spiders and scorpions.

  7. Stinging insects including bees, wasps, and hornets. 

  8. Trip hazards from uneven terrain. 

  9. Weather hazards including increased risk during wet conditions and lightning. We have a separate Adverse Weather policy and procedure. 

  10. Steep slopes and cliff edges and the risk of falling rocks. 

  11. Quarries. lakes, ponds and other drowning hazards. 

  12. Haze and other air pollution. We have a separate Haze policy and procedure. 

Each location that we use for Forest School sessions has a separate risk assessment with management actions. Every Forest School Leader knows their site very well and will educate Forest School participants on how to stay safe. 

 
Forest School Safety Measures

Forest Schools employ a number of techniques to support safety in the outdoors and the undertaking of Forest School experiences. These are:

  1. Tool talks: every tool has a corresponding tools talk which is conducted before it is introduced. 

  2. Experience risk assessments are carried out for every experience that uses fires, tools or other equipment which may warrant its own risk assessment. Experiences such as lighting a match to light a candle for Vesak day or Deepavali for example. 

  3. Site risk assessments are carried out before a site is used for a Forest School session. 

  4. We use games such as our own risk game or a hide and seek boundary identifying game called "1,2,3 where are you?"

  5. We walk the boundary of our play space when we stop to make camp. Children must respect the boundary and are free to roam within it whilst observed by an adult. 

  6. We keep group sizes small at a ratio of no greater than 1 to 6, and less for younger children. 

  7. We invite adults to volunteer to come along for our drop-off sessions to increase the number of 'safety officers' present. 

  8. Every child in our drop-off sessions will have an identify card that they can give to an adult if they get separated from the group.

  9. Every child in our drop-off sessions will have a whistle that they can use if they get separated from the group. 

  10. We will dedicate time to safety during our first three sessions of each new term until the children are aware of their roles in staying safe outdoors. 

 
Accident and Incident Reporting
Definitions
  1. ACCIDENT: accidents are unplanned, unforeseen, and unexpected events. Accidents result in losses, such as injury or damage to equipment, for example, a child falls out of a tree and breaks a wrist.  

  2. INCIDENTS: incidents are also unplanned, unforeseen, and unexpected events, however, they are near misses, events which could have resulted in an accident but the adverse consequences have been avoided. Incidents are also caused by other people, for example, a person leaves tools unattended, or a child pushes another child off of a boulder.

 
Actions​
  • When working on a school's premises, we will use a school’s own procedure for accidents and incidents reporting. 

  • We will gather as much information as possible at the time of the accident or incident, in the form of verbal statements and photographs for example.

  • We will record all accidents and incidents using the Accidents and Incidents Log which is kept electronically and securely on the Cloud.

  • We will review all accidents and incidents and seek to ensure that any future events are minimised or the possibility of re-occurrence is removed.

  • For accompanied programmes, the adults accompanying the children as Forest School Volunteers will be responsible for the children in their care and they participate with the knowledge and acceptance of the risks involved in play and learning in natural spaces. The accompanying adults will be included in the Accident and Incident recording process.

  • For drop-off programmes, the nominated adult caregiver will be informed of any accidents when they collect their child at the end of a session.

  • Accidents, where applicable. will be reported to the Commissioner of the Ministry of Manpower.

  • If a child arrives for their session with an existing injury this is discussed with the caregiver and all staff and volunteers are informed.

 

Accident Reporting and Recording
  • Accidents are recorded on site using the accident and incident form and then logged after a session.

  • All staff and volunteers know where the Accident Folder is kept and how to complete it.

  • All Accident records should contain

  1. the time, date and nature of any accident;

  2. details of the people affected;

  3. the type and location of any injury;

  4. the action taken at the time, any action taken later and by who, such as first aid administered;

  5. the circumstances of the accident, names of any adults and children involved; and

  6. any witnesses (including contact details of the witnesses) if applicable;

  7. the name and signature of the staff member who dealt with the accident, any witnesses (if applicable) and a countersignature by the caregiver when the child is collected (for unaccompanied programmes).

 

Incident Reporting and Recording
  • Incidents are recorded in an Incident Report and are then filed in the Accident and Incident Log.  This includes incidents that are reportable to the authorities.  

  • All Incident records should contain:

  1. the name of the person affected;

  2. the date, time and location of the incident;

  3. what triggered the incident;

  4. the nature of the incident;

  5. others involved;

  6. witnesses (if applicable);

  7. how the situation was handled;

  8. what form of restraint was used and any consequences;

  9. if it was reported to the police, a crime number;

  10. any follow up, or insurance claim made;

  11. the signature of the staff member who dealt with the incident, any witnesses and a counter signature by the parent when the child is collected, if applicable.

 

  • Incidents include, but are not limited to:

  1. harassment by members of the public;

  2. members of the public photographing any of the children without permission;

  3. theft of personal or Wildling’s property;

  4. cautions and warnings delivered by NParks staff;

  5. racists incidents;

  6. physical attacks;

  7. bullying and fighting;

  8. misuse of tools or fires;

  9. failure to wear correct personal protective equipment;

Notification of serious accident or incident
  • For accompanied programmes, no reporting is necessary as the children remain the responsibility of their caregiver and not Wildlings’ Staff during sessions.

  • For unaccompanied programmes, we notify the Commissioner of the Ministry of Manpower of any serious accidents of incidents and take their advice on how to proceed.

  • For school programmes, we use the school’s own reporting system and reporting will be directed through the school.

  • Notification will be made as soon as is reasonably possible but in any event within 10 days of the incident occurring.

 

Ministry of Manpower iReport

We meet our legal requirement as an employer under the WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH (INCIDENT REPORTING) REGULATIONS 2007. We will use the MOM iReport system to report should any employee have an accident during a Forest School session which meets the reporting criteria.: https://www.mom.gov.sg/eservices/services/wsh-incident-reporting

 

We will report accidents and incidents during Forest School sessions that result in:

  • Hospitalization for 24hrs or longer.

  • Medical certificate for 3 days or longer.

  • Death or an employee, participant, or passerby as a result of Forest School activities.

  • Work related illnesses, skin disease, infectious diseases, poisonings.

 

DATE: 18th October 2019

AUTHOR: Claire Seabrook

VERSION: 1.1

REVIEW DATE: 18th October 2020

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