How to childproof your home’s electrical outlets

Electricity can often appear much like magic to children. By flipping a switch or plugging an electrical cord into an outlet, appliances come alive and lights illuminate rooms. There are electrical hazards in your home or apartment that children need to be aware of—including electrical outlets. But you can help keep kids safe by child proofing your home with tamper-resistant outlets. 

Install tamper-resistant outlets

Installing tamper-resistant outlets is a great way to begin child proofing your home. This is a great way to reduce the chances that your child is injured when trying to insert something, whether it’s their fingers or a fork, into an electrical outlet. 

What is a tamper-resistant outlet?

Outlets that are considered “tamper-resistant” are electrical outlets designed to prevent foreign objects from being inserted into the receptacle.

How do “tamper-resistant” outlets work?

Tamper-resistant outlets or tamper-resistant receptacles (TROs or TRRs) have shutters that stay closed unless a plug with two prongs is inserted into the outlet. Both springs on the shutters must be compressed at the same time to allow an object to gain access. 

If someone attempts to stick an object in the outlet, the shutter prevents the object from entering and no contact with electricity is made. 

Where are tamper-resistant receptacles required?

Beginning in 2008, tamper-resistant outlets are required in all new homes that are built. According to the National Electric Code, these kinds of receptacles need to be installed in virtually every room of your home.

That being said, there are some exemptions to the NEC’s requirements. For example, if an outlet is more than 5 ½  feet above the ground, a TRO is not required. Additionally, if an outlet is a part of a luminaire or lighting fixture or behind an appliance that is not easily movable, these outlets are not required.  

Starting in 2017, tamper-resistant outlets are also required in the following new and renovated public places:

  • Childcare facilities
  • Hotel and motel guest rooms
  • Preschools and elementary education facilities
  • Gyms, auditoriums and “places of waiting” 

Can I use plastic outlet caps or plugs?

It might be surprising to you, but children have the ability to remove plastic outlet safety caps or covers with relative ease. In fact, a study from Temple University explained that, of all 2-4 year-old children, every single one of them could remove an outlet cap in 10 seconds. As a result, the only sure way to prevent your baby or young child from hurting themselves is to install receptacles that are considered “tamper resistant.”