Creche children face scald and bleach hazards
Toddlers sleeping in a storeroom, children with access to a scalding hand-dryer and burning radiators, low-hanging window blind cords and bleach are just some of the dangers in creches in Kildare and Meath.
Day two of the Herald investigation into childcare facilities shows that creches in another two counties are breaching both safety regulations and educational standards.
Reports by Tusla inspectors on childcare facilities in Kildare and Meath for this year have revealed numerous breaches of basic care, hygiene and safety standards.
Just as worrying are the inspectors' reports of children sitting "bored" at tables with no activities or limited play equipment, which is often kept on a high shelf out of reach.
In some cases children are squashed into overcrowded spaces with little area to play and almost no freedom to choose play materials.
One creche kept plasticine on a high shelf and took it down only twice a week. It had jigsaws in boxes with no guide pictures for the children to follow.
Sleeping problems varied from leaving toddlers to sleep on mats instead of safely in cots, to the creche which had two and three-year-olds sleeping in a "small, inadequately ventilated storeroom".
Heating was also a problem area - in one creche a single heater had to serve the entire space used by the children while in another unguarded electric heaters were "scalding to the touch".
In one of the Kildare creches the temperature was 8.4C instead of the recommended 18 to 22C. In another the playrooms were overheated, reaching uncomfortable highs of 23.5C.
Hot water in one staff toilet and nappy-changing area was "a scald hazard at 79.4C" and could be accessed by pre-schoolers. In another a hot-air hand-dryer was "a burn hazard at 111C".
Children not washing their hands before eating, a shortage of washbasins in nappy-changing areas and 14 young children in one overcrowded creche using a single toilet were also found.
Bleach, disinfectant and other hazardous liquids were kept in a low-level unlocked press in one premises and on an accessible shelf in a play area in another.
Trailing window blind cords so low that they posed a "strangulation risk" were found in another creche. Loose electrical leads were also common.
In one childcare facility the chairs were so high that children had to sit with their legs dangling and in another the fire exit was blocked by toys.
One main door had a broken latch on the inside, and in the same creche children could open a door from the play area leading to the front of the premises.
Another creche had no outdoor play area and several lacked appropriate toys and equipment for child development.
Staff did not engage with or encourage children to play in two of the creches but mainly stood and watched.
A lack of garda vetting for staff was a common problem in many of the facilities.