Parents have a lot on their minds when preparing for the arrival of a new baby. There are the usual tasks to check off the babyproofing list, such as putting chemicals and medications out of reach, securing tall furniture that could topple, and installing cabinet and toilet locks. As Baby Safety Month, September serves as a reminder to keep electrical dangers in mind when babyproofing your home.
Babies and children are naturally curious, but sometimes that curiosity can connect them with danger. According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 2,400 children suffer from shock and burns each year caused by items being inserted into the slots of electrical receptacles. Even more alarming is that on average, 12 children die from these injuries every year.
Although many of today’s newer or remodeled homes have AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) and GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) technology to help prevent electrical fires and shocks, parents cannot rely on that solely to protect their little ones. They aren’t always a match for a toddler’s schemes, and they need to be tested regularly to make sure they are always in working order.
Outlets and cords
The National Electric Code requires tamper-resistant outlets (TROs) in new homes built in 2008 and after. TROs feature slots that appear to be filled with plastic. The plastic serves as a type of spring-loaded shutter that only opens when pushed at the same time (like when plugging something in). So, if a child attempts to stick an object in the outlet, the shutter prevents the object from entering, and no contact with electricity is made.
If your home isn’t equipped with TROs, you could either hire a licensed electrician to install them or purchase outlet plate covers, outlet plugs or outlet caps.
These plugs and caps are great, but remember, babies grow into toddlers who can crack the code and remove them, and they are completely ineffective if adults forget to replace them after short-term tasks, like vacuuming.
Also, be careful when using extension cords around crawling babies and toddlers. Put them away as soon as you are done with them. Check for long electrical cords that span the floor and secure them with cord covers to avoid trip/crawl hazards.
Other helpful items include power strip covers (or hide strips behind furniture and out of baby’s sight), cord-shortening devices so cords do not have excess length or droop, and anti-unplug devices (a box-like outlet cover with one open side), so the baby can’t unplug devices.
A toddler’s viewpoint
Set aside time to consider electrical items in your home that could tempt inquisitive little ones. There are potential dangers in every room. You may think a room is fine at first glance, but consider getting down on your hands and knees to see it from a crawling baby’s or toddler’s perspective.
Look for unprotected outlets, hanging or dangling cords with excess length, surge protectors (anything on the floor is a toy, right?), and extension cords or long cords just asking to be tugged on. Various products are available to help cover outlet slots, reduce cord length, cover surge protector strips, and help prevent little ones from pulling out plugs from outlets.
If the thought of all of this overwhelms you, consider hiring a babyproofing professional to address all the potential hazards in your home. In short, look at your entire home through your crawling baby’s or tottering toddler’s eyes. Then take action to protect the little ones in your home.
For more information about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.