Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.4 Electrical Fixtures and Outlets Safety Covers and Shock Protection Devices for Electrical Outlets

All electrical outlets accessible to children who are not yet developmentally at a kindergarten grade level of learning should be a type called “tamper-resistant electrical outlets.” These types of outlets look like standard wall outlets but contain an internal shutter mechanism that prevents children from sticking objects like hairpins, keys, and paperclips into the receptacle (2). This spring-loaded shutter mechanism only opens when equal pressure is applied to both shutters such as when an electrical plug is inserted (2,3).

In existing child care facilities that do not have “tamper-resistant electrical outlets,” outlets should have “safety covers” that are attached to the electrical outlet by a screw or other means to prevent easy removal by a child. “Safety plugs” should not be used since they can be removed from an electrical outlet by children (2,3).

All newly installed or replaced electrical outlets that are accessible to children should use “tamper-resistant electrical outlets.”

In areas where electrical products might come into contact with water, a special type of outlet called Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) should be installed (2). A GFCI is designed to trip before a deadly electrical shock can occur (1). To ensure that GFCIs are functioning correctly, they should be tested at least monthly (2). GFCIs are also available in a tamper-resistant design.

Tamper-resistant electrical outlets or securely attached safety covers prevent children from placing fingers or sticking objects into exposed electrical outlets and reduce the risk of electrical shock, electrical burns, and potential fires (2). GFCIs provide protection from electrocution when an electric outlet or electric product may come into contact with water (1).

Approximately 2,400 children are injured annually by inserting objects into the slots of electrical outlets (2,3). The majority of these injuries involve children under the age of six (2,3).

Plastic safety plugs inserted into electric outlets are not the safest option since they can easily be removed by children and, depending on their size, present a potential choking hazard if placed in a child’s mouth (3).

One type of outlet cover replaces the outlet face plate with a plate that has a spring-loaded outlet cover, which will stay in place when the receptacle is not in use. For receptacles where the facility does not intend to unplug the appliance, a more permanent cap-type cover that screws into the outlet receptacle is available. Several effective outlet safety devices are available in home hardware and infant/children stores (4).
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter for Outlets Near Water
  1. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 2010. NFPA 70: National electrical code. 2011 ed. Quincy, MA: NFPA.
  2. Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). 2008. Know the dangers in your older home Rosslyn, VA: ESFI.
  3. National Fire Protection Association. National electrical code fact sheet: Tamper-resistant electrical receptacles.
  4. National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Real safety with tamper-resistant receptacles.