Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS12 Hazard and risk management

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 12

      Equipment, premises and facilities are checked on every day of operation for hazards to children. Accident/incident records are analysed to identify hazards and appropriate action is taken. Hazards to the safety of children are eliminated, isolated or minimised.

      Consideration of hazards must include but is not limited to:

      • cleaning agents, medicines, poisons, and other hazardous materials; 
      • electrical sockets and appliances (particularly heaters); 
      • hazards present in kitchen or laundry facilities; 
      • vandalism, dangerous objects, and foreign materials (e.g. broken glass, animal droppings); 
      • the condition and placement of learning, play and other equipment; 
      • windows and other areas of glass; 
      • poisonous plants; and 
      • bodies of water.

      Documentation required:

      A documented risk management system.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children by ensuring that services have a mechanism to assess and address environmental hazards in an ongoing way.

      Amended May 2016

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      A key aspect of promoting the health and safety of everyone at the service is hazard and risk management.

      A hazard is a situation or thing that has the potential to cause death, injury or illness to a person.

      Risk is the likelihood that death, injury or illness might occur when a person is exposed to a hazard. Risks must be managed by taking action to eliminate them, and if that is not reasonably practicable, minimizing or isolating them. Eliminating a hazard will also eliminate any risks associated with that hazard.

      It is important that the service assesses and understands the hazards and risks that are relevant to its own unique situation. To start this assessment there is a sample list of Potential Hazards [DOC, 156 KB].

      Safety and suitability of surfaces, furniture, equipment and materials both indoors and outdoors are also covered under Criterion PF5 – Furniture and Equipment which covers purchasing and installing playground equipment and surfacing.

      Areas which are primarily for adults such as the office are sometimes used for additional storage. Care should be taken to ensure that by doing this, no-one is exposed to the possibility of injury from tripping or falling over poorly stacked or stored items or resources.

      Hazards and risks must also be managed on any excursion when children leave the service. See HS17 for more guidance.

      In order to meet this criterion services can use a daily check sheet. Any hazards found should be documented and eliminated, isolated or minimised.


      Supervision is an essential component of hazard and risk management in a service. Supervision must be active and focussed.

      The type of supervision required depends on the layout of the premises, activities being undertaken, equipment being used, the ratio of adults to children, and the number, ages and needs of children.

      Direct, close and constant supervision by teachers, educators and kaiako will be required if an activity includes an element of risk. For example, climbing, cooking, using ropes, cords or tools of any kind or activities near water.

      Ensuring children do not have unsupervised access to hazardous equipment such as ropes, cords and tools is a key aspect of supervision. Access to any hazardous equipment must be closely monitored.

      Teachers, educators and kaiako should guide children on how to use equipment appropriately and safely.

      Knowing children’s interests and abilities will assist teachers, educators and kaiako to anticipate children’s play. Anticipating what children might do next will help teachers, educators and kaiako support children if challenges or difficulties arise, and intervene if there is potential danger. To ensure risk is minimised or eliminated, teachers, educators and kaiako should guide children’s behaviour and approach to play when necessary.

      If an activity poses a risk, teachers, educators and kaiako will use their professional judgement to ensure that the right kind of supervision can be provided. If close supervision cannot be provided for an activity which requires it, then teachers, educators and kaiako should encourage children to modify their activity, or defer it until the appropriate level of supervision can be provided.

      Teachers, educators and kaiako should have regular conversations about how play is supervised in their own setting.

      Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)

      Services must comply with the standards set in the licensing criteria as well as the requirements of the HSWA and its regulations. Additional guidance about the HSWA is available for early learning services.

      Documentation guidance:

      Your hazard and risk management system is likely to be made up of three main processes:

      1. Documented daily hazard checks – inside and out
      2. Documented playground safety checks 
      3. Regular risk review – your risk register should be updated whenever new information comes available, and reviewed on an annual basis.

      Keep the hazard and risk checklists for the current year and the preceding year.

      Below are some additional sources of information for support around risk management:

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Consider a sequential approach to hazard and risk management. For example:

      1. Identify hazards and risks.
      2. Assess the likelihood and impact of identified risks.
      3. Respond to hazard or risk – what will be done, when, by whom?
      4. Monitor and review hazard and risk management system and practices.

      Issues to consider in developing a hazard and risk identification and management system to ensure hazards are assessed and addressed in an ongoing way are:

      • How hazards and risks will be identified
      • How are hazard and risk identification processes and practices reviewed and updated?
      • If a hazard is identified, how it will be eliminated, isolated or minimised? When will it be done? Who is responsible for this?
      • What opportunity is there for educators, teachers and kaiako to contribute to hazard and risk management systems, processes and practice?
      • How will visitors to the service be informed about identified hazards?
      • How is the maintenance of premises and equipment documented, managed and budgeted for?
      • How are maintenance issues communicated to the person responsible or governance committee for any repairs or replacement?
      • How are the service's hazard and risk management checklists reviewed and used to inform the service's management and practice, eg supervision, maintenance, repairs?