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?

3 Answers 3


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.

  • "This teaches them to respect others property." Such a novel concept! If only more people would do this... Excellent answer overall.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 13:11
  • 2
    @FreeMan My wife and I are trying to raise our kids to survive after us. Sure, we can lock everything and shelter them, but that does not teach them how to live. At best it teaches them how to circumvent restrictions. I'm not opposed to locking things up (it's necessary at some point), but I want them to thrive in the long term. That means that even when I'm not around they know what to do and why (whether they actually do the right thing is another story). To this end, literally everything I do with them is a teaching moment...including my screw ups. This includes shop safety.
    – tnknepp
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 13:53
  • Amen! Once again, if only more people would do this...
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 13:57

I would not consider this solution inexpensive, but not bad compared to hospital bills. There are devices known as circuit breaker lockouts:

Universal Breaker Lockout

A number of sources exist on the internet, with varying prices starting from slightly under US$20. I used the search terms "universal circuit breaker lockout" to find representative samples.

The more economical versions I've found require a user-purchased padlock to properly secure the device, as well as a mounting screw to provide the necessary attachment.

An added advantage of this approach would mean no wiring modifications and the associated labor.

One could combine this lockout with a phone-capable electronic padlock and not worry about having the keys at hand.


There are locks you can buy for the ends of powercords ("lock plug lockout" should get you some google results), but if you can disable all the outlets near the power tools with locks, that might work well. (Sadly, this means your extension cords should also be in a locked box.)

Would it be practical to simply turn off circuits and lock the access to your panel?

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