Risk Assessments

Every activity that we do at Chelsea Forest School, from handling natural materials, to stick play, to tool use undergoes a risk assessment. This comprises analyzing the benefits that are derived from participating in this activity. The level of risk that exists if no safety measures are put in place is identified. This can be High, Medium or Low and is arrived at by looking at the likelihood of something happening combined with the likely severity of the injury if it were to occur. Anything that is not automatically a Low risk, requires safety measure to be put into place. The level of risk with the safety measures in place is then re-analyzed. The goal of course is to get all risk down to Low.

In the event that risk cannot be reduced or that risk outweighs benefits, the activity is not permitted.

Here are some examples of safety measures that have been put in place for some of our more risky activities:

Stick Play

Benefits

  • Develops small muscles – gripping stick
  • Develops large muscles – carrying stick, maneuvering it through forest, swinging it around with controlled movement
  • Develops eye hand coordination
  • Promotes team work
  • Develops creative thinking and imagination
  • Provides opportunities for problem solving
  • Develops safety and risk analysis
  • Awareness of others
  • Ability to distinguish live wood from dead
  • Ability to visually scan environment to ‘find a stick’

Safety Measures

  • Children are taught to use the ‘Blood Bubble’ rule. If they extend their arm with the stick (or any tool) in it, they must be able to turn in a complete circle without hitting anyone. This circle is their “Blood Bubble”. If anyone is in their bubble, they could get hurt and thus blood! This rule applies whenever sticks are being swung around or used to hit things.
  • Sticks taller than the child must be dragged behind them and not carried upright.
  • Many children working together with sticks are closely supervised, and reminded to be aware of each other.
  • Sticks are NEVER permitted to hit people.
  • Children may not run while holding a stick.

Tree Climbing

 Benefits

  • Develops large muscles
  • Develops strong core
  • Develops strength and dexterity in hands – essential for writing
  • Promotes self awareness (listening to your gut)
  • Safety awareness
  • Promotes communication skills
  • Perseverance
  • Spatial awareness
  • Kinesthetic awareness
  • Allows children to face their fears
  • empowering/self confidence

Safety Measures

  • Children must ask before climbing a tree and an adult must be actively supervising.
  • An adult must assess the tree for safety (health of branches, fall zone, etc. ).
  • Trees are not climbed when icy.
  • Children may not climb trees with loose clothing (skirts, big shirts, etc.)
  • Children are taught to assess branches for strength. For example, the branch must be thicker than their arm before climbing on it, and must be a live branch. Dead branches break easily.
  • Where possible, dead branches are removed.
  • Broken branches that may snag on children’s clothing or otherwise cause injury are removed.
  • Children are NEVER put up into a tree. If they cannot climb up themselves they do not possess the necessary strength or coordination to be remain safe.
  • If they climb up, they must be able to get down. They may be verbally guided down.
  • Before being allowed to climb out of arms reach of the adult, the adult must be confident that the child possesses the necessary skills to climb safely.
  • Children are taught to have a minimum of 3 points of contact at all times ie. 2 feet, 1 hand or 2 hands and 1 foot…
  • A height limit of 3 m is imposed.
  • Children are taught to communicate with each other “ I am going to put my foot there, watch out for your hands” and to be aware of others. If someone is in the way, wait patiently, and/or communicate your need with them.
  • If an adult is unable to devote 100% of their attention to the children climbing the tree, (distractions from other children, parents), then tree climbing is off limits for the time being.
  • If there are too many children for the adult to watch effectively, either another adult is called over, or numbers are limited. 

Tool Use

Benefits

  • Muscle development- small and large
  • Coordination
  • Core Strength
  • Safety awareness
  • Risk awareness and analysis
  • Self Esteem
  • Confidence

Safety Measures

  • A tool area is marked off with a rope or some other means. The only ones permitted in this tool area are the tool user(s) and the supervising adult.
  • A glove is worn on the non-tool hand (with cutting tools such as knives and saws).
  • The “Blood Bubble ” rule is explained and enforced (see Sticks section above).
  • Preschool children and children lacking the requisite muscle control and coordination are permitted to use tools hand over hand until the adult is confident that the child can use the tool independently in a safe fashion.
  • An adult always supervises tool use.
  • Children using tools must be focused on the job at hand and not distracted (bugs, other children, etc.).
  • Children are taught to inspect the tool before use to ensure it is in good condition.
  • Proper tool use is taught by a qualified Forest School educator.

Fire

Benefits

  • Respect and understanding of fire
  • Self esteem
  • Confidence
  • Perseverance
  • Skill building
  • Contribute to community
  • Math skills such as sorting, classifying, measuring
  • Language skills

Safety Measures

  • Fires only happen when the educator feels that the children are ready. They have shown interest and will be capable of sitting still and following all safety precautions.
  • Prior to having the fire, children are taught how to safely move around a fire. They must walk on the outside of the circle and not through the middle.
  • An open fire must have a safety ring around it. This can be rocks, a snow wall, or a rope, as long as it clearly defines the area that no one must step inside without permission.
  • A bucket of water and/or snow must be nearby to extinguish the fire.
  • A first aid kit with burn gel/ice pack is present.
  • No open fires are permitted on windy days or in extremely dry conditions.
  • All municipal fire regulations must be followed.
  • Children must sit 1 m away from an open fire.
  • There should a rope or other safety ring placed around an enclosed fireplace to prevent children from going too close and to remind them that the fireplace is HOT.
  • Children approaching a fire to add wood, roast marshmallows, etc must do so under the adult’s supervision and in limited numbers.
  • Children who are unable to sit still may be permitted to go play in an area that is a sufficient distance from the fire, under adult supervision.