Autumn is the time of year for bonfires and fireworks, and many practitioners contact us to find out how they can introduce fires to their activities whilst safely managing risk. We are able to advise them that their insurance through the Pre-school Learning Alliance will cover them for fires, fire pits and outdoor wood burners - but appropriate risk assessment should always be carried out in advance and safety guidelines followed, of course.
The Alliance encourages settings to use the natural environment all year round. Managers may find it helpful to read the section on safety and risk assessment in the Alliance’s publication Re-connecting with Nature – Outdoor Learning in the Early Years which highlights the need for staff to do a thorough risk assessment suitable for the ages and stages of the children, allowing them to experience all the excitement of the outdoors without compromising their safety.
If you decide to have a fire in your setting, following these simple guidelines will help you to prepare a safe and fun activity for all involved:
- It is important to prepare a fire at least 50 feet away from any building before the children arrive, ensuring that the area is cleared of any inappropriate or flammable materials, such as wooden fencing, or trees which might be hiding small creatures!
- Never attempt to burn hazardous refuse such as old tins of paint, aerosols or foam,or filled furniture.
- Never use accelerants like petrol or paraffin, and always keep a full bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies and to swiftly extinguish the fire at the end.
- You will need clear fire rules that the children learn about and understand in advance of the fire activity, and which adults present can reinforce again while round the fire. A suggested rule would be that the children walk around the outside of the fire circle for access, and remain seated in the circle during the fire activity.
- Children enjoy making and then cooking damper bread on a fire as well as toasting bread or marshmallows– for these activities you will need a long pre-prepared stick. For best results, children should toast one at a time, and use the ‘respect’ position (on one knee) when toasting, never standing up to toast.
- At the end of the session the responsible adult should ensure that the fire is safe, this could be by raking the embers and damping them down.
When it comes to bonfire and or firework events, wherever possible, providers should take advantage of professionally organised community bonfires and firework displays; these will always ensure you get the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ without all the hassle of organising it yourself! But, if you are thinking of holding your own event, you should get in touch with the Alliance’s Insurance Team to discuss your plans. We’re always happy to advise our members on what they can do to ensure they plan the activities they want to provide in the safest manner possible.
The Alliance provides comprehensive insurance for members through our insurance partner RSA. Find out more about the different insuance packages available here.