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Bill aims to prevent child care worker injuries with training

Tonia McMillian, seated here with her one-year-old grandson, has worked as a licensed family child care provider for 24 years. On Tuesday, she will testify during a Senate committee meeting in support of a bill to establish occupational training workshops for early educators.
Tonia McMillian, seated here with her one-year-old grandson, has worked as a licensed family child care provider for 24 years. On Tuesday, she will testify during a Senate committee meeting in support of a bill to establish occupational training workshops for early educators.
Priska Neely/KPCC

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In the midst of calming crying toddlers, keeping busy children engaged and juggling lunch schedules and nap times, child care providers may not take the time to look out for themselves.

Back injuries, slips and falls are extremely common among early educators, not to mention the high risks of exposure to illness. 

A bill moving through the legislature aims to prevent those injuries with increased training. 

AB 676, introduced by Assemblywoman Monique Limón, would require every early educator who is licensed or who cares for children under a publicly funded child care program, participate in a one-time, two-hour health and safety training workshop. 

"This is one little piece in an overarching effort to ensure that we understand the impact that child care workers have in our state," said Limón, "that we understand that when a child care worker is not available that that has an impact on an employee, that that has an effect on a family."

The bill's authors cite statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noting that "workers in the child care services industry are 18 percent more likely than the working population as a whole to experience a lost-time injury on the job, with back injuries occurring at nearly double the rate of the general working population."

Tonia McMillian, who has worked as a licensed family child care provider for 24 years, knows the risks first-hand. She suffered two back injuries on the job and struggled to keep her business running without health insurance or workers compensation.

Tonia McMillian runs a licensed family child care center in Bellflower.
Tonia McMillian runs a licensed family child care center in Bellflower.
Priska Neely/KPCC

"That was very painful, I don't ever want to re-live that," said McMillian, who runs a day care out of her home in Bellflower. 

Now she is part of an effort to make this training available locally. Her chapter of the education workers union, SEIU Local 99, provides occupational safety training for child care providers. McMillian is one of the instructors in the peer-led workshops that teach best practices in lifting children, moving equipment, sanitizing surfaces, and even managing stress.

"When I'm talking about proper lifting techniques – just bending over and picking up a baby with your arms puts too much stress on your back," she explained, demonstrating the proper technique of bending her knees and squatting slightly before lifting. "Just simple stuff like that makes a difference in us getting hurt on the job."

McMillian will testify in support of the bill at a Senate Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon and is hoping these workshops become an industry standard. If it passes, it will move to the Senate Labor Committee for a vote Wednesday.

"It’s gonna help every provider care not only about the health and safety of the children in their care," she said, "but it helps us care about the health and safety of ourselves, especially for the things we take for granted."