Is an electrical lockout a good way to protect children in a workshop


I have a small work shop in my basement with the usual power tools: table saw, miter saw, etc.

I also have a kid that is more and more curious about what is in that room every day. While she (generally) does a great job listening to me, it still nags at me that those tools are accessible to her, even though I unplug them after use. Some of the tools have safety switches, but those are more for unintentional use, like bumping in to the table saw. If she were to try, I'm sure she could figure these out.

I'm also not comfortable physically restricting access to the room. Our basement is divided in to two parts: the workshop and an entertainment area. If there were a fire, the fastest and safest way out of the house is through the workshop. Also many other safety things are in the workshop area, including water shutoffs, the electrical breaker, etc.

The outlets in the workshop have their own 20A breaker switch. Lights are on another 15A. I thought of installing a keyed switch between the breaker and the rest of the outlets. Something like this:

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Which is rated for 20A.

  1. Am I overlooking a better solution?
  2. Would installing such a switch, as long as it's properly rated for the load it's going to carry, have any unintended consequences?

Best Answer

Locking the breaker is certainly an option (probably a good one). I would consider it a hassle to have to unlock the breaker before work and having to relock when done. However, I'd rather do that than have my child lose a finger.

In addition to shielding our children from things it is important that we teach them to respect the shop area and to respect the tools in the shop. One of my children is very impulsive so she'll grabs things without thinking. As soon as she does this in the shop she is sent into temporary exile (for a week or so) and is under no conditions allowed back in the shop. This worked for the other kids, and it is working for her.

Additionally, I've found it to be helpful to put on demonstrations of why we respect our tools. Kids love visuals. Get a 1-inch dowel and wack it on the ground a few times then ask them which is harder, the dowel or their finger. They'll say the dowel. Then show them how quickly a circular saw cuts through the dowel and ask what would happen if that were their finger? You don't want to terrify the kids, but at least make them aware of how serious this stuff is.

One more thing I've done with the kids is buy them their own tools, toolbox and all (second-hand stuff). They know that those tools belong to them. If I want to borrow one of their tools, I ask. This teaches them to respect others property. It also teaches them to take care of their tools (Oh, you broke your screw driver using it as a chisel? Sorry, guess you will have to buy a new one). They also know they don't need permission to use their own tools so it gives they something to do/use while working with me.

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