One of the wonders of modern living is having electricity at our disposal. It has been a huge part of our day-to-day living that we would surely have a hard time without it. We are dependent on electricity and we use it for a wide array of reasons, not only for household needs, entertainment but even in our work.
Unconsciously, our reliance on electricity has also given birth to potential electrical hazards to us and most especially our children. Children are naturally curious. They want to explore the world especially if it catches their fancy. There are also instances that they try to imitate adults but fail to do it properly (e.g., plugging into outlets, cleaning appliances), hence resulting in injuries or electric shocks.
A huge number of injuries and even death in kids related to electricity are recorded yearly. In fact, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), about 2,400 children are treated for electrical-related injuries annually.
Mind you, these injuries can happen in just a blink of an eye. The damage of electrical injuries can range from mild electrocutions, electrical burns, damages to internal organs, cardiac arrest, and even head injuries caused by falls after coming in contact with electricity. This is not surprising with the human body being a good conductor of electricity.
What do to if your child is electrocuted?
1. Instinctively, you may want to reach out to your child immediately but this is a big no-no. Never touch a victim while the current is flowing in their body, as this can electrocute you too. You should aim to shut down the power source. If not possible, stand on a non-conducting object then use an object (like a wooden broomstick) to try and move your child from the electricity source.
2. Check the extent of the injury. If the child is not breathing or still, perform CPR (parents and older kids in the house should be trained to do CPR as it may come in handy in different types of injuries, not only electrical injuries)
3. Call 911 immediately
4. Consult your healthcare provider no matter how mild the injury it could be. This is especially a must for toddlers who can’t describe what they are feeling.
ESFI also made a survey of the understanding parents of young kids regarding Tamper Resistant Receptacles (the use of TRRs is mandated by the National Electrical Code in order to reduce the possibility of injuries) and surprisingly, almost half of the respondents during the said survey are not aware of TRRs.
With this and the possibility of injuries, the importance of educating parents regarding electricity and children (not limited to the use of TRRs over plastic covers) is essential.
There are actually several ways on how parents could have a safe environment for kids when related to electricity.
1. Use TRRs and not plastic caps to cover the outlets.
Having an outlet cover is still not outdated in our books but parents should look closely at the age of kids in their homes and placement of outlets. Outlet covers are cheap and generally effective BUT for kids between 2 years old to 4-year-olds, they could most likely be able to remove them easily. TRRs are preferred because it acts as permanent security to your outlets.
In addition, the data from ESFI also said that that outlet covers could even be a potential choke hazard.
2. Always inspect your electrical appliances, devices, and gadgets for possible damage.
If observed (for example, frayed cords or hot-to-touch appliances), call in a trusty electrician near you for repairs or replace them immediately (Do not attempt to do the repairs by yourself for safety). It would also be better if you schedule an electrical home inspection to cover all bases.
This is still a part of “baby-proofing” your home, if everything is in order, then fewer chances of accidents in the presence of your kids, which could lead to injuries (for example electrical fire).
3. Educate your child when it comes to electricity and its dangers (no matter what age they are).
Even if your child is just crawling, your can start teaching them on the big NOs or Don’t Touch. You will be surprised how easy it will be for them to grasp the concept. As your child ages, you could now introduce more definite concepts and clear instruction. This could also be a great way to spend time together. You can even plan exciting activities that will teach the concept of electricity (do safe and easy science experiments e.g., simple circuits for bigger kids, read interactive books and watch educational videos).
4. Keep appliances out of reach and if possible, keep outlets out of sight.
One technique that you can do is to try to look at your home from your toddler’s point of view. Check out what they can see using their height level. Take note of what you can spot and have safety measures in place using the information. If you can also move around furniture to hide the outlets and not just adding covers, then it will be safer. Also, make sure that electrical appliances, like toasters and microwaves, could not be easily reached for safety.
5. Make sure to hide those cords that they can easily pull or chew.
There are multiple ways that you can do like using cord clips and covers, electrical conduits, behind furniture or walls, and even electrical tapes. In addition, this will also reduce the possibility of tripping.
Other safety tips:
• Teach older kids to obey warning signs
• Make sure that all metal objects are tucked away to avoid toddlers from inserting them into outlets
• For older children, teach them to not never pull the plug by the cord
• Encourage your children to ask for help in case they need to use electrical appliances
• Make sure that your home has fire extinguishers in case of electrical fires
• Teach kids that water and electricity do not mix. Kids should not be allowed to play/use electronics near water (like the tub). In addition, make sure that GFCIs are installed, as this will help prevent shocks.
• Have an emergency plan and make sure that emergency numbers are posted for all family members to see
Accidents can happen when you least expect them. It will just take a few seconds for those inquisitive toddlers to get in trouble. The good thing is, accidents can be prevented. Take the time to survey your home and have safety practices in place.
You could also ask for recommendations from licensed electricians. Click here for local contractors that you can to reach out.