Both of the slots in a tamper-resistant receptacle have spring-loaded shutters over them that are interconnected. Unless pressure is applied to both slots at the same time they will not open; so a child trying to stick a small object a slot will not be successful. Unfortunately, the shutter mechanism can be a little stiff when the receptacle is new, and applying uneven pressure or pressing from an angle will not activate the release mechanism—which is why they are also adult-proof until you get used to them.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 2,400 children each year suffer severe shock and burns when they stick items into the slots of receptacles, which also causes an estimated six to twelve fatalities. As a response to this problem, the National Electric Code mandated in 2008 the installation of tamper-proof receptacles at locations in the home within reach of a child in all new and remodeled residential construction—adding approximately $40 to the cost of an average new home with 75 receptacles.
The letters “TR” embossed on the front of an outlet indicates that it has the required tamper-resistant feature. An additional benefit of the new, safer receptacles is that those annoying little plastic receptacle caps are no longer necessary for newer homes with small children.
Also, see our blog post When should I replace electric receptacle outlets?
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
• What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?
• What is the code requirement for GFCI protection for receptacles near a wet bar sink?
• What is the requirement for a service receptacle outlet for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HACR) equipment?
• Why is an opening in the wall around the side of an electrical receptacle outlet a safety defect?
• When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required?
• What is allowable voltage range at a wall receptacle outlet in a house?
• Does an electric receptacle outlet in a storage shed require GFCI protection?
• What are "self-contained" electrical receptacle outlets and switches?
• What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?
• Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection?
• Can I remove a 240-volt range receptacle and hard-wire the range?
• What is a "backstab" receptacle outlet?
• Why are some electric receptacle outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?
• What is the height requirement for an electric receptacle outlet?
• Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?
• When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?
• Does a home inspector remove receptacle outlet cover plates?
• What is the minimum height for an exterior receptacle outlet?
• When was the current receptacle/outlet spacing of 12-feet first required?
• When was the three-slot (grounding) outlet/receptacle first required?
• Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?
• Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?
• What problems does having too many electric receptacle outlets on a single circuit cause?
• How I can tell if a receptacle outlet is tamper resistant?
• Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?
• What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle?
• How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?
• How far above a kitchen countertop do electrical outlets have to be?
• What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous?
• How high above the floor do electric outlets/receptacles in a garage have to be?
• Is an ungrounded electric receptacle outlet dangerous?
• My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead and there are no tripped breakers in the electric panel. What's wrong?
• Is there an adapter that can be placed on a two-slot receptacle to make it safe?
• Why is there no bathroom electric receptacle in this old house?
• How can I tell if the electric receptacle outlets are grounded?
• What are the most common problems/defects found with electric receptacle outlets during a home inspection?
Visit our ELECTRICAL page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.
Diagram - Leviton