Changes to Canadian electrical code aim to prevent kids from getting shocks
New parents who babyproof their home normally place plastic covers over the electrical outlets, but revisions to the Canadian Electrical Code announced Thursday mean that some day that will no longer be necessary.
The updated code requires new homes to have tamper-resistant receptacles, designed to prevent children from inserting objects like hairpins, keys and nails that could cause them to receive a shock.
"The great thing is that finally we have some technology that's actually passive — it doesn't rely on the parent to actually make sure that there's any covers in place," said Denyse Boxell of Safe Kids Canada.
"So we're very, very pleased that finally there's technology that would be permanent on the wall and would have an automatic shield closure, which is what we've been asking for for quite some time to prevent these kinds of injuries."
The new receptacles have a built-in shutter system that prevents anything from going into just one hole. The shutters will open only if two prongs are heading into the holes at the same time.
Boxell said it would be unlikely for a child to stick two pins into an outlet at the same time.
"We know from the research and obviously child development, and such things, that children don't do that," she said.
"Because at the stage of development where they're curious and they're exploring these types of things, like what object fits into what slot, it's beyond their level of cognition to actually do that."
And although it's not required for existing homes, Stephen Brown, director of electrotechnical codes and standards for the Canadian Standards Association, said homeowners may wish to replace their receptacles.
"The cost of actually installing one of these receptacles is very, very inexpensive," he said in an interview.
"We may wish to do that as homeowners, just to ensure it's a safe surrounding for children."
Boxell said anyone intending to do this should call an electrician if they don't have the skill and training to do it themselves.
And for those who choose not to make the change, she said they can continue to use the plastic covers — although they're not ideal.
"Research has showed that small children can still pull them out of the socket and also they're very small so children who like to mouth things have been known to put them in their mouths and choke," she said.
90th birthday for association
"So we do strongly recommend, if you have young children, to retrofit your home and put in the new tamper-resistant receptacles."
The first version of the Canadian Electrical Code came out in 1927, and it's routinely updated by the Canadian Standards Association, a not-for-profit member-based organization that develops and implements standards and codes. The association is celebrating its 90th birthday this week.
This is its 21st revision, Brown said.
Once an item is in the code, it's up to the provinces to adopt it, Brown said, and he expects a majority will do so within six months.
"This is a change that actually helps protect children from electrical injuries," Boxell said.
She noted that on average, there are about four deaths each year in Canada as a result of electrical injuries.
118 revisions to code
"And we have about 121 emergency room visits as a result of an electrical injury, and that's for children under the age of 14," she said.
"It's a significant amount of kids who, unfortunately, are injured."
The code is more than 700 pages and this version includes 118 revisions, Brown said.
In addition to the electrical outlets, he said homeowners with swimming pools will find new bonding requirements for pools installed or retrofitted with saline chlorination systems.
The salt can cause corrosion to the wiring needed for lights around a pool, he noted.
As well, the code will require that carbon monoxide detectors be hard-wired into a residence so they can run on the electrical system, and not batteries that might run out and not get replaced.