Two-fifths of childcare facilities did not vet all of their staff
Major concern about the lack of Garda vetting of childcare workers has emerged in a series of inspections by the children's watchdog.
An analysis of 500 randomly selected inspection reports of pre-schools, play groups, nurseries, crèches, daycare and other early childhood services found 38pc - or almost two-fifths - had not complied with the law to have all workers vetted.
The concerns have emerged in the 2015 annual report of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
It also highlighted problems with other issues including child safety - as 49pc were not compliant in dealing with hazards such as cord blinds, allowing children access to first aid boxes and electric kettles, or outdoor areas that were not secure.
Other hazards highlighted included unrestricted access to a hotel car park, toys with sharp exposed edges that could cause injury, and rodent droppings in a hot water unit.
Two large barking dogs were found in an outdoor play area. Some had no evidence of insurance cover. It found one blind cord was not secured to the wall and posed a strangulation risk to children,
The report said 2,302 early years services were inspected by Tusla - a 74pc increase on 2014. Some 58 complaints received about early years services were investigated and two prosecutions were taken.
There was also a significant problem with lack of references for staff and the absence of a person in charge was found in nine facilities.
Other instances of risk involved a child sleeping in a swing, staff observed not washing their hands after changing nappies, an inadequate number of cots and the routine checking of sleeping children not recorded.
In other cases inspectors found adults who supervised children at lunch time had little interaction with them.
In a toddler room a staff member stood with her hands in her pockets.
The highest category of complaints related to governance and the running of the facilities.
This was followed by health, welfare and development of the child. Meanwhile, a quarter related to safety.
Parents accounted for over half the complaints - but they also came from grandparents, neighbours, care workers and students. One-third of complaints were upheld.
There were 254 closures in the course of the year, mostly for personal reasons or due to the unsustainability of the service.
"While we identified a lot of good practice and there were high levels of overall compliance with the regulations, it is clear that there are still some areas that require further attention and improvement," Brian Lee, Tusla director of quality assurance, said.
Asked about Garda vetting, a spokesman for the Justice Department said 80pc of vetting applications are now being processed by the National Vetting Bureau in five working days. An e-vetting system, which facilitates the online processing of applications for vetting from registered organisations, is now in place.
"The e-vetting system is available to all registered organisations and the Garda authorities are ready to assist those organisations who are not yet using the e-vetting system to do so," the spokesperson said.