Helping Keep Kids Safe Around Electricity

Education is key to preventing electric shock or burns caused by tampering with a wall outlet.

August 07, 2013 | By Paul Netter

There’s not much that fascinates children more than electricity, so Southern California Edison (SCE) has tailored safety education programs just for them. The utility also has tips for parents who can take an active role teaching their kids about electrical safety.

Although electricity is very safe when used properly, it is very important for children to follow necessary safety precautions to avoid injury ranging from severe burns to even death that comes from electrical shock.

Iris Hosea, a SCE project manager who oversees the Speakers’ Bureau, stresses this and more while speaking to kids between the ages of four and 17 annually about electrical safety.

“Practical, everyday scenarios are stressed to them,” said Hosea, who thinks 4 is a good age to start explaining electrical safety.

Hosea’s teaching tools range from animated DVDs and coloring books for the smaller kids to activity books and discussion for the older kids. She finds the Hazard Hamlet (a hands-on demo) a particularly effective teaching tool for elementary to middle-school kids, but perhaps most of all she finds that engaging children with energy and interactive activities gets the message across.

“For instance, we talk directly to the smaller kids and tell them to take an activity book home to their parents and tell them what they learned,” Hosea said.

She said the kids are often inquisitive, asking questions ranging from what causes electrical shock to why birds don’t get electrocuted on power lines?

Bill Messner, SCE principal manager of Health and Safety, not only preaches education but also stresses teaching kids to respect electricity as early as possible.

“You’ve got to respect and understand it,” Messner said. “It’s very unforgiving. You touch a hot pan and it hurts. But with electricity, you don’t necessarily get a second chance.

“Southern California Edison wants our customers to feel safe around electricity and we think an important part of that effort is educating our children and young adults as early as possible.”

Nearly seven children a day are treated in emergency rooms for electric shock or burns caused by tampering with a wall outlet, according to the Electric Safety Foundation International. In 2007, over 98,000 children ages 14 and under were treated for burn injuries in emergency rooms. The most common causes of burn injuries among kids 14 and under are hair curlers, curling irons, room heaters, ovens/ranges and irons.

Some of Messner’s key precautions for parents of small, curious children include never letting them touch electrical outlets with their fingers or with objects, never letting them touch anything electrical while wet and never letting them play around electrical wires or equipment.

Messner is a big proponent of plug outlet covers and safety caps that protect small children from sticking their fingers or metal objects into exposed electrical outlets.

To avoid such dangers, use plastic outlet covers, safety shutters and child tamper-resistant outlet face covers. Parents should also use ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI-protected outlets in areas where water is present.

“You just have to make sure to educate them as a parent,” Messner said of kids. “[Electricity] is a wonderful resource that makes our society better. You just have to respect it.”

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Topics: Safety