There is nothing a parent wouldn’t do to keep their children out of harm’s way. Sadly, children are involved in 20% of all electrical injuries. Most electrical accidents occur in the home and are preventable.
When a new baby comes into a home, most know the importance of childproofing. Outlets are covered because they are low enough to be within reach of babies and toddlers who enjoy sticking things in them at their peril! The next line of defense involves blocking access to cables and wires because young children can bite or suck on them, risking electrical shock, or they grab and pull cables attached to something heavy, causing them injury.
There are many products on the market at different price points and varying degrees of effectiveness designed to cover outlets and ensure that cables and wires are not dangerous to children. But there is so much more involved in making your home safe for your children.
Babies grow quickly into toddlers and young children, and homes are full of electrical appliances and devices kids use from an increasingly young age, so taking the long view to prevent accidental electrical injury is best. Case in point, most electrical injuries involve toddlers and adolescents. This is probably because as children grow up, adult surveillance of their activity around the home reduces. As they get bigger, stronger, and more adventurous, they can get into more trouble.
There are four main types of electrical incidents that can harm children and teens:
- Flash – when an electrical arc causes superficial burns to the skin
- Flame – when an electrical arc ignites clothing
- Lightning – when high voltage flows through the body for a short time
- True – where the person becomes part of the electrical circuit
Electrical current can cause extensive damage to children if they are exposed to an electrical incident, even at low voltage. The smaller the person, the more damage a shock can inflict. Potential damage ranges from burns to serious tissue damage and even possible organ complications if the shock is severe enough.
The higher the voltage, the more serious the injury, as high voltage causes deep burns. However, low voltage is hazardous for children because current at low frequencies causes muscle tetany (muscle contraction); this involuntary contraction prevents them from letting go of the source of the shock.
The current at which a person can ‘let-go’ is called the ‘let-go current’ and is determined by size, body mass, and weight. Children are small, so their ‘let-go’ current can be too low to trigger the circuit breaker to cut off power. When a child is exposed to electrical current, even at low voltage, for a long time, the potential for more serious injury increases.
It is essential to understand that AC current, the most common in homes, can be up to five times more dangerous than DC current of equal voltage. This is because DC voltage will propel you away from the source, making shock exposure shorter.
Heaters are the second cause of flame fires and burns in the home, particularly during winter, often due to careless placement or poor maintenance. Every year fire departments respond to over 48,000 heater-caused fires, many of which are in the home and, unfortunately, leading to too many children in emergency departments with burns and smoke inhalation damage.
Then, there is the home electrical installation itself which is frequently the cause of shocks and fires. Covering up outlets is good practice, but ensuring your outlets are in good condition in the first place is just as important. When outlets become worn due to excessive use, plug prongs don’t fit well. This is hazardous for children and adults.
Loose wiring and poorly connected circuits can lead to all sorts of accidents and increase fire risk. Trying to save money by doing basic electrical work yourself or getting a handy friend to do it can be tempting. However, not having electrical work carried out by a qualified electrician increases risks.
The most effective way to reduce the risk of your children suffering from electrical injuries in your home is to go beyond the typical ‘babyproofing’ of outlets, wires, and cables and have a trusted electrician analyze your electrical installation and home with risks to children in mind; an electrician’s trained eyes can see accidents waiting to happen where you may not and take measures to prevent them.
The importance of correctly grounding the home cannot be overstated. An electrician will ensure proper grounding and can install Arc-fault-circuit interrupters (AFCI), which will shut off power if there is an accident or fault. Installing Ground-fault-circuit detectors wherever there is potential contact with water, like in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and basements, or any outdoor outlets, is a priority, as these will significantly reduce the risk of shock in the event of an accident. Your electrician will show you how to test them.
As the holidays approach, it brings additional hazards; Christmas lights are a frequent fire risk, and more visitors using electrical outlets can overload outlets. Then, of course, there are more toys and games that require plugging in, causing potential dangers for children.
With Christmas and winter approaching, if you have children of any age, now is a great time to call a trusted electrician near you to ensure your children are protected from accidental electrical harm.
Prevention is everything – from the inside out.
At Randy’s Electric, we’re proud to have served the Minneapolis Metro area since 2002. We’ve established trust in our community by providing spectacular service, phenomenal customer care, and upfront, affordable pricing. We treat our customers’ homes with the respect we’d give our own homes, and when we take on a project, we do it right the first time.
Whether you need home wiring, home safety services, or electrical services, Randy Electric has got you covered. Visit us online to learn what we’re all about and give us a call at (612) 662-0104 when you’re ready to schedule service.