How Safe Are Childproof Outlets?

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As with most things parenting-related… it depends.

Childproofing is exhausting. With so many dangers to worry about, it can feel overwhelming trying to keep our kids safe. But try we do—and there’s no shortage of opinions and products out there to help with the task.

Electrical outlets, for example, are among the first items we attempt to childproof—and with good reason. Approximately 2,400 children are severely shocked or burned by electrical outlets each year, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), and a Temple University study found that 100% of 2-4 year olds could remove a plastic outlet cover within 10 seconds. Yes, 100%. Every single one of them. Older children are also at risk. In fact, roughly 1 in 3 children injured by electrical outlets each year are between 5 and 17 years old. (And to think you let that teenager of yours drive your car!)

You obviously want to protect your kids. So, exactly how safe are your “childproof” outlets?

Worst: Plastic Outlet Plugs

Plastic outlet plugs are a tempting choice. They’re convenient, cheap, and easy to take to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. But they have loads of problems:

  • Many plastic outlet plugs break off in the outlets.
  • They may not fit securely in old outlet covers.
  • You may forget to reinstall them after using the outlet.
  • Your kids can—and will—easily learn how to remove them. (100% of toddlers!)
  • Loose plastic outlet covers are a choking hazard.
  • They’re Lego-level painful to step on.

Almost As Bad: Sliding Outlet Covers

Sliding outlet covers are marginally safer than plastic plugs. When you’re not using the outlet, the sliding cover automatically covers the openings. These can’t be removed by tiny, curious hands, and they offer a more permanent solution than plastic plugs. Perfect, right?

Not so fast. Toddler-see, toddler-do gets in the way here, too. Your kids can easily learn to slide the outlet covers to expose the outlets, and they can be opened with a single-pronged object—meaning a hairpin can still find its way into the socket. That’s no good.

Getting There: Box Outlet Covers

Box outlet covers protect the entire outlet. They can be left attached even when the outlet’s in use, and they can be easily removed to re-expose the outlet when needed. Box covers are a good alternative to plastic plugs or sliding outlets because they protect the entire outlet and secure to the wall. However, they can be pretty inconvenient if you’re plugging and unplugging frequently. Also, if big and bulky isn’t exactly your design aesthetic, you may want to reconsider.

Best Choice: Tamper-Resistant Receptacles (TRRs)

Tamper-resistant receptacles (a fancy word for outlet) have spring-loaded shutters that close the outlet openings until both shutters are compressed at the same time. These are safer than the sliding covers, because TRRs need pressure on both entry points at the same time. This means that a single paperclip, fork, or key won’t get through to the electrical contact point. They look just like electrical outlets, and they won’t break the bank. About $50 can make your entire home safer for everyone.

Here’s an added bonus: You may already have them! The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) National Electrical Code (NEC) mandates that every new and renovated home after 2008 is equipped with TRRs. Other properties built and renovated after 2017—hotels, childcare centers, schools, gyms, hospitals—are also required to have TRRs. If you have an older home, a licensed electrician can install them for you.

What About Electrical Strips and Surge Protectors?

You can find several power strips with built-in dome or box covers, or you can buy the covers separately. Use multiple lines of defense by using covers or domes and keeping strips above and away from new crawlers and curious kids. Childproofing is easier with the right products and Dallas electrical professionals. We’ve made families in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex safer for years. We’d love to help you, too. Give us a call today!