Children tamper with electric outlets and stick items such as keys, coins, clips, pins, or forks. So it wasn’t surprising in 2008 when the National Electrical Code (NEC) mandated tamper-resistant receptacles be installed in new or renovation constructions. However, many people often ask about the need for these tamper-resistant outlets in commercial buildings and other places with a lower influx of children.
Commercial buildings do not need tamper-resistant outlets. Such outlets help protect against things like electric shock and are only required in places where children under seven visit frequently, such as pediatric rooms, playrooms, and residential buildings.
This article will explain why commercial buildings don’t need tamper-resistant outlets and what these outlets are designed for. We’ll also discuss the locations where the NEC requires tamper-resistant outlets to be installed.
Why Commercial Buildings Don’t Need Tamper Resistant Outlets
Commercial buildings are buildings that are used for retail purposes. Examples include office buildings, warehouses, retail outlets, shopping malls, etc. A commercial building is any building where business is conducted, and that is intended to generate profit.
Commercial buildings are exempted from implementing the national electrical code because they are not expected to house children.
The National Electrical Code only requires tamper-resistant receptacles in locations where children from age seven and below usually frequent. Remember that the primary goal of this outlet is to ensure children’s safety. They help prevent the possibility of children getting electrocuted or burned due to sticking items into electrical outlets, especially children seven years and below.
Note: A lot of grey areas exist when it comes to applying the NEC, as it’s ambiguous, and one can argue that children under seven years old also visit commercial buildings. If left unattended, they may stick items into electrical outlets. As a result, commercial buildings can also comply with the NEC code and include tamper-resistant outlets when constructing or renovating.
However, this is not a compulsory rule and should not be seen as one.
Other Exceptions to the Use of Tamper Resistant Outlets
Aside from commercial and office buildings, there are a few other exceptions in the use of tamper-resistant outlets as prescribed by the NEC. You can find these exceptions at the NFPA National Fire Protection Agency website. Here’s a few notable exceptions where tamper-resistant outlets don’t need to be used:
- Receptacles located 51/2 feet (1.7 m) above the ground. The average child age seven and under is not as tall as 5 feet (1.5 m), so it’ll be difficult for them to reach that height.
- Receptacles that are constituents of an appliance or luminaire. Little children can’t easily remove outlets connected to appliances.
- A single or duplex receptacle in dedicated appliance spaces that cannot easily change location. When you have appliances that small children cannot quickly move, it is unnecessary to use tamper-resistant outlets.
- Non-grounding receptacles used as replacements. The National Electrical Council typically requires three-pronged outlets (grounding outlets) with grounding wire on 15A and 20A branch circuits. However, the code makes exceptions for replacing old non-grounding receptacles (two-pronged outlets) with no ground for circuiting a box.
What Tamper Resistant Outlets Are Designed For
Tamper-resistant outlets, also called Tamper Resistant Receptacles, are designed to stop foreign objects from inserting into an electric plug. They come with two spring-loaded shutters. These shutters are designed to close the slots when you remove a plug and open the slot when you insert a plug.
The outlets are designed primarily to keep children from getting hurt and from having injuries from electrical shock. The shutters will only open up when you apply pressure to both prongs and push simultaneously. When a child sticks something like a tiny metal object to only one slot, the shutters will not engage, stopping the child from coming in direct contact with electricity.
Why Tamper Resistant Outlets Are Important
Electrical Engineering solutions are critical for all construction needs to ensure electrical appliances are reliable and safe to use. Approximately 2,400 children suffer electric shock and burns annually from sticking items into electric outlets. As if that’s not enough, an estimated 6-12 fatalities are recorded per year.
Furthermore, tamper-resistant outlets are preferable to receptacles with caps or slides because these receptacle caps may get lost, leaving children and even adults prone to shocking hazards. In addition, children are intelligent and will often learn how to manipulate these caps from watching their parents.
Buildings That Need Tamper Resistant Outlets
As earlier mentioned, tamper-resistant outlets are critical because they protect against electric shock injuries. They are specifically designed to prevent electric injuries resulting from children sticking items such as keys, forks, etc., into electrical outlets. There are some primary locations where the NEC requires tamper-resistant outlets for all 15A, 20A, 125V, and 250V outlets:
- Residential dwellings: You are required to place tamper-resistant outlets in dwelling units like the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, garage, bedroom, living room, outdoors, etc. The NEC typically requires all electrical outlets in residential homes to be tamper-resistant, with the few exceptions talked about earlier.
- Hospitality: All Guest rooms and hotel suites, motels, and shared areas should be fitted with tamper-resistant outlets.
- Healthcare: Tamper-resistant outlets are required in pediatric rooms, patient care rooms, corridors, and waiting rooms of clinics, pharmacies, and medical offices, outpatient facilities, and playrooms.
- Child care facilities: Every child care facility and education facility such as preschools, elementary schools, dormitories require tamper-resistant outlets.
- Others: Other places where tamper-resistant outlets are required include gymnasium, skating rinks, auditoriums, and even while awaiting transportation.
Children under the age of seven are at risk of getting electrical shock injuries from sticking foreign objects into electrical outlets. For this reason, the National Electrical Code requires the use of tamper-resistant outlets or receptacles in locations where there are likely to be children.
Commercial buildings and office buildings that do not have any children’s facilities are not required to use tamper-resistant outlets. However, you can install these outlets if you feel the need to or think that children can access the building.
- NFPA: Tamper Resistant Electric Receptacles
- NFPA: National Electrical Code
- ESFI: Tamper Resistant Receptacles -Child Proofing Done Right
- Electrical License Renewal: Tamper Resistant Receptacles