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Keeping the wonder safe: A quick risk management guide for children's museums

Children's museums ignite curiosity and inspire young minds. However, prioritizing safety is paramount in fostering a nurturing environment. This short guide explores key areas for children's museums to consider in their risk management strategy. 

Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention 

  • Flooring: Regularly inspect flooring for uneven surfaces, tears and spills. Use non-slip mats in high-traffic areas and near water sources. 

  • Stairs and Ramps: Ensure proper handrails are available and in good condition. Maintain clear markings for changes in elevation. 

  • Clutter Control: Implement a system for keeping walkways and exhibit areas free of clutter and tripping hazards. 

  • Signage: Utilize clear signage to warn of potential hazards, such as wet floors or uneven surfaces. 

  • Winter Weather Preparedness: Be prepared for increased fall risks associated with winter weather. Attention should be paid to areas outside, such as sidewalks, as well as entryways that might become more slippery as guests enter. 

Emergency Preparedness 

  • Plan and Practice: Develop a comprehensive emergency plan addressing fire, natural disasters, active shooter situations and medical emergencies. Conduct regular drills with staff and volunteers. 

  • Evacuation Procedures: Clearly marked evacuation routes and exits should be readily accessible and well-lit. 

  • First Aid: Staff should be trained in basic first aid and CPR. Maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit in easily accessible locations. 

  • Communication Strategy: Establish a communication plan for notifying parents/guardians and emergency responders in case of an incident. 

Injury and Illness Prevention 

  • Exhibit Design: Exhibits should be designed with safety in mind, eliminating sharp edges, pinch points and other potential hazards. 

  • Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain exhibits to identify and address potential safety concerns. 

  • Staff Training: Train staff on identifying and mitigating potential hazards within the exhibits and play areas. 

  • Hygiene Promotion: Encourage frequent handwashing by placing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the museum. 

Food Safety 

  • Vendor Selection: Select reputable food vendors with a proven track record of food safety practices. 

  • Food Handling: Ensure proper food storage, handling and preparation procedures are followed by vendors and staff. 

  • Allergen Awareness: Maintain clear allergen labeling on all food items offered for sale. 

  • Cleaning and Sanitation: Regularly clean and sanitize food preparation and service areas. 

Background Checks for Staff, Volunteers and Vendors 

  • Background Screening: Implement a background check policy for all staff, volunteers and vendors who will have direct contact with children or large sums of money (such as cashiers, accountants and/or fundraising event staff/volunteers). 

  • Volunteer Training: Provide volunteers with training on child safety protocols, including recognizing and reporting any potential concerns. 

  • Vendor Management: Include background checks as part of your vendor selection process, particularly for vendors providing food services or interacting with children directly. 

Gift Shop Safety 

  • Product Selection: Carefully evaluate all merchandise for potential hazards, such as choking hazards for young children, sharp edges or toxic materials. 

  • Compliance: Ensure all products your organization intends to sell are vetted through the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to prevent selling recalled products, and ensure all products comply with age labeling regulations. 

  • Product Placement: Keep small items that could pose a choking hazard out of reach of young children. Consider using display cases or higher shelving for these types of products. 

  • Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of gift shop products to ensure aisles are clear and identify and remove damaged or outdated items that may pose a safety risk. 

  • Staff Training: Train gift shop employees and volunteers on product safety and how to identify potential hazards for young children. 

  • Sturdy Displays: Ensure merchandise is displayed on sturdy shelves or tables and consider the risk of young children being tempted to climb on shelves to reach items placed out of reach. 

  • Shoplifting Protocols: Develop protocols and provide training for handling a shoplifting incident. Have those protocols easily accessible to staff in the event of an active shoplifting situation

By implementing these proactive measures, children's museums can create a safe and secure environment for children and families, allowing the focus to remain on fostering a lifelong love of learning and exploration. 

Additional Considerations: 

  • Partner with a qualified risk management professional to conduct a comprehensive safety assessment of your museum. 

  • Regularly review and update your risk management strategies to reflect any changes in operations or regulations. 

  • Maintain clear and concise safety information for visitors on your website and within the museum itself.  

Remember: A safe environment is the foundation for a thriving children's museum, allowing families to create lasting memories and nurture future generations of curious minds. 

Looking for ways you can reinforce your safety efforts and increase awareness of potential losses? Visit to access a variety of information, resources and more designed to better prepare your organization and protect your people so you can focus on your mission.