Electrical safety for adults can be relatively easy to teach. Aside from extreme situations such as flooding, natural disasters, or faulty electronics, most adults understand that they should be wary of electrical problems, and consult experts should a problem arise. However, children are more inquisitive and much more likely to inadvertently put themselves in a dangerous situation through their curiosity. Here are a few tips to help make sure that children stay safe around your home’s electrical system.
Thankfully, modern electronics are designed to be at least child resistant. Most appliances with electronic components and plugs have features that are intended to separate the user from any potentially dangerous forces. Additionally, it is often quite difficult to get to the electrical components, as sturdy and redundant materials are used to prevent the electrical components from exposure. Home electrical systems are often the same. The use of sturdy electrical covers and safety devices such as GFCIs greatly decreases the risk that of a child or adult being exposed inadvertently to the electricity.
Long Term Solutions
If you are having electrical work done, or are otherwise renovating your house, it might be a good time to make plans which will create a more child friendly arrangement. For example, improving the outlets in your house is a great way to make them more child proof. One of the most common causes of pediatric electrical injury is when a child pushes a conductive item into the hot terminal of a power outlet. If they touch it to the negative or ground terminals, nothing will happen, as there will be no flow of electrons. However, if they touch the hot terminal, electricity will follow the path of least resistance, and could arc into and through their body, electrocuting them.
One of the best long term ways to help make outlets safer is by installing tamper resistant outlets. These outlets have small plastic covers which block access to the terminals. They only open when pressure is simultaneously applied to both terminals, which will typically only be done when a plug is inserted. A child will struggle to be able to get into the dangerous part of the terminal. Additionally, installing GFCIs can help ensure that any power surges are stopped as quickly as possible. This can be helpful if there is a hazard such as a frayed electrical cord.
There are other options for permanent add ons or outlet types which will help to prevent a child risk. Slide covers and attachments which prevent access to an outlet are great options if you are not able to fully replace your outlets. Always try to prioritize, making sure that the most dangerous outlets are covered up as best you can.
Another alternative is the placing of outlets and power switches in locations which are not accessible to children. Moving them to be higher up or out of the way can help ensure that your child does not find it an easy target for investigative play.
Short Term Solutions
One of the most common solutions that parents use to child proof outlets is the installation of plastic outlet covers. These are small plastic objects which slide into the outlets like a plug. However, they are made entirely of non conductive plastic, and usually feature a flat front which is difficult for a child to remove. However, these have the flaw of needing to be removed for the outlet to be used. While it is cheaper and easier to install these than a tamper resistant outlet, there are also more things which can go wrong. The most obvious is that every time you use the outlet, you will need to remove the plug, and parents frequently forget to reapply the cover after using the outlet.
Additionally, a determined child can sometimes pry off the cover, depending on their age and ingenuity. If they are not securely attached, a child which can remove them will expose themselves to harm.
Another important step to take when looking at ensuring that your house is safe for children is to make sure that all electrical cords are in good condition. An extension cord which is frayed or falling apart can be a huge hazard, and can deliver electric shocks to a child who might grab it or step on it. Make sure that all of your extension cords which are showing their age get replaced as soon as possible. Additionally, cords coming from appliances should be checked. These can be harder to replace without buying a new appliance, but you should check and maintain them nonetheless, as they also present the threat of electric shock if in poor condition.
Finally, positioning furniture and other household objects strategically can help ensure that your child doesn’t have access to the electrical system. Putting a couch or dresser in front of an outlet can prevent electric shock, or the unplugging of your appliances. Taking the time to baby proof your electrical system is one of the best things that you can do to ensure your child grows up safely.