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Electrical Hazards and Kids

As a parent, having small kids in the house may make you more aware of everything.  You spend hours “child proofing” your home, anchoring furniture, putting away choking hazards, and locking up chemical products.  You are careful to watch them around water at all times.  You want nothing more than to keep your child safe from accidents in your own home.  But have you considered the potential for electrical hazards?

The danger of electrical hazards in the home are sadly often overlooked, even by careful parents.  Did you know that the electricity in a single 7.5-watt Christmas tree bulb is enough to kill an adult almost instantly, if passed through the chest?  For this reason and many others, it’s vital that parents make their home as safe from electrical hazards as possible, and make sure their children know the dangers as well.  So, how can you keep your children safe from electricity?  Here are a few tips:

First, consider installing tamper-proof outlets.  These are more than covers.  They are designed with an internal barrier that only allows properly-rated plugs to be inserted.  These do a good job of keeping  little fingers and other objects out of unused outlets.

Next, think about child-resistant wall plates.  These go over your existing outlets and cover unused outlets with a spring-loaded latch that is easy for you to access, but difficult for a child to open.  If your child used a nightlight, consider a model that serves a dual purpose by blocking the unused outlet.

Another option is outlet caps.  These plastic caps are simply inserted into empty plug receptacles.  They are very easy to install, and block little fingers from being inserted into open outlets.  They are usually pretty difficult for children remove, but keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t figure out how to pull out these plastic plugs.

Also, in any room with a water source, you should install GFCI switches (ground fault circuit interrupters).  When these switches detect a current leak (as would happen when an appliance is dropped into water), they shut off the power at the outlet.  This provides some measure of protection, but always keep electrical appliances like hairdryers or clock radios away from sinks and faucets.

If you don’t want your kids activating lights or a certain switch, consider installing switch locks.  These also fit over most standard toggle switches, but they lock the switch in place with a snap feature that’s easy for you to operate.  To make turning the lights on and off a little easier for small kids, look for switch extender plates.  They usually fit over standard switches but extend a handle downward, so your child can turn their bedroom or bathroom light on and off by themselves.  This could help keep them from climbing on things or playing with switches.

In addition, be sure there are no light fixtures with empty sockets within your child’s reach.  A severe shock can result from fingers or hands being inserted in empty sockets.  Also check that there are no accessible extension cords in use.  These can be tempting for small children to put in their mouths, and makes it very easy for them to pull lamps or other objects down on top of them.

Your home is meant to be a safe haven for you and your family.  Electricity makes life a lot more convenient for everyone, as long as it is harnessed and used properly.  When thinking of ways to child proof your home and avoid accidents, be mindful of how you can make electricity safer for your little ones.


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