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A Shocking Hazard Homeowners Can’t Forget

Many homeowners take the time to clean up hazardous substances and clear off tables before young children visit, but a surprising number forget that a dangerous hazard lurks in every wall. Unprotected or outdated electrical outlets can injure not only children, but guests and family members too.

Inspect all outlets regularly, and consider the following carefully — whether or not you have young children in the home:

USE SAFETY CAPS OR CHILD-PROOF OUTLETS TO HELP AVOID ACCIDENTAL ELECTRICAL SHOCKS AND INJURIES

Children are curious, and often try to inspect or play with electrical outlets. This includes attempting to “plug in” keys or other objects that can cause a massive, and often fatal, electrical shock. Never leave young children unattended around an unobstructed outlet — even if the outlet is “occupied” by plugs.

A variety of companies produce safety-related caps and locking devices to protect young children and pets from the hazards of electrical shock. Among them, locking covers for surge protectors, designed to help prevent a dangerous accident.

Plastic plug caps are a common solution, and one that often prevents injuries. Most small children cannot remove the plastic caps from outlets easily, giving adults the chance to stop an accident before it happens.

In addition, a number of manufacturers produce “child safe outlets” which use sliding levers to block access to the outlet when not in use.

Never assume that a safety device will stop or prevent all accidents, however. Nothing replaces careful adult supervision for keeping children safe and away from electrical outlets.

INSTALL GCFI OUTLETS IN BATHROOMS, KITCHENS, AND NEAR WATER SOURCES

Another electrical hazard many homeowners overlook is the presence of non-GCFI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and other hazardous locations.

GCFI outlets are electrical outlets which incorporate a “ground-fault circuit interrupter,” a device which monitors the current flowing through the outlet and into attached devices. The GCFI device cuts off the electricity automatically if the difference in the current flowing into and out of a device exceeds 5 milliamps (a very small amount). A larger difference in the current flowing into and out of the outlet could signal a “ground fault,” which happens when electricity escapes from the wiring ¬†and takes a short cut into the ground. Often, when a person is using an electrical device, that “short cut” is through a human body–and it can cause tragic injuries or death.

Ground faults and other electrocutions can occur more frequently in the presence of water (or heavy steam) which is why smart homeowners install GCFI outlets in dangerous locations like kitchens and bathrooms.

As with child safety caps and other devices, a GCFI outlet cannot prevent all electrical injuries or deaths. However, it does improve the safety of outlets generally, and homeowners should investigate use of GCFI outlets, especially when updating kitchens, bathrooms and other areas of the home.

INVESTIGATE THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN YOUR AREA

Many cities and counties have elaborate safety regulations regarding electrical outlets and safety devices. Know the laws in your area and make sure your home complies.

Never rely on this or any other online article to “prove” your home is safe or as the only source to evaluate the safety of your home. Know the law, inspect plugs and outlets regularly, and always supervise children and pets to help avoid electrical and other household accidents.

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