We invite technical professionals with experience of “safety socket covers” to contact us with their stories and views. Please send to the address listed on the contacts page.
“I am an electrician, and have been doing electrical maintenance for the past 18 years. I have been telling people of the dangers of these so called safety devices for the past 17 of those years, having seen the results of prolonged use of these covers.
I have found that the way manufacturers make the pins slightly wider, in order to make them difficult to remove, has the effect of widening the contacts inside of the BS 1363 socket. When it is later used with a correct sized plug it either does not work, or worse, it causes arcing within the socket itself! Usually the person using them notices that it is melting and unplugs it. I have replaced in excess of 50 sockets due to this one thing, each time I have told the occupant why, and that the consequences could be worse than just replacement of a couple of sockets!
The worst example I have seen of these being used was in a house where the occupier was running a child care business from their home, and were using these in every socket! One by one all of the sockets were failing, when they saw the burning around the live pin they called me in. When I told them that these things are dangerous, they insisted that the local authority would close them down if they were NOT installed, for the SAFETY of the children!! Madness!!
I now send people to your website, as it illustrates this problem extremely well.”
Marcus Grubb, Electrician (Havant, Hants)
“As a designer I have always known (since my first child was born) that these were a complete waste of time and a potential hazard to children in several ways. I wrote to RoSPA regarding my concerns about 4-5 years ago. Their reply acknowledged that they were unnecessary. However, their view was that encouraging people to use them was a useful cue to those who had small children around the home to think about safety! This makes an absolute nonsense of the whole (otherwise sensible) notion of risk assessment. RoSPA would be better employed publicising the benefits of BS1363 as well as singing the praises of the BS technical committee that drafted the original standard back in the 1940s.”
“We have a 9 month old baby. Our first child is nearly six. There is one double socket in the house that is accessible to the crawling 9-month-old, which my wife decided last week to put a pair of safety socket covers on (she’d received these in a pack from some baby group). When I got home from work, the 6-year-old had taken one of the safety socket covers out, and put it in "upside down", opening the shutters and leaving direct access to the live terminals for small objects – lucky I noticed before the baby put something in. The covers are now in the bin and we are contacting the baby group involved.”
Grahame Kenyon CEng MIEE MIET, Chartered Electrical Engineer and parent (Lancashire)
“I recently carried out a periodic inspection of an electrical installation on a building which had a hall used for a children’s play group. I carried out an inspection and test of the sockets which were installed around the hall. The sockets had been fitted with plastic “safety” socket covers. I had to extract these to test the socket with an instrument. I noticed one socket cover was broken leaving the left hand socket shutter open and exposed to touch. When I extracted the socket cover I found the plastic earth pin had broken off in the socket leaving both shutters open with now exposed live parts, this is a dangerous condition. I repaired the socket and left it in a safe condition. I advised the person in charge of the premises to plug these plug covers in to the nearest dustbin”
John Peckham, Astute Technical Services, Essex
“On enquiring with a reputable highstreet outlet, who provided socket outlet covers under their own brand-name, what CE-mark had been applied for, I was told it was the Toy Safety Directive, that the covers contain nothing toxic for children, and that no tests of the electrical insulating properties or fire-retardance were carried out. Clearly, it’s expected that children will lick socket outlet covers!”
“My daughter, against my advice, bought some of these from a well-known High Street supplier of babycare products and fitted them in her home. Her 3 year old son, seeing Mummy replacing these widgets after using the vacuum cleaner, applied his natural infant curiosity and dexterity, and removed one, which broke at some point. He replaced the larger part in the socket, and gave the smaller part to his younger sister to chew on. She nearly choked.”
Anon, Electrical Engineer and grandparent
The following quotes from professionals are taken from various web forums:
“I have twice seen these safety covers used as actual plugs by ne-er do well idiots - wrapping the live & neutral around the plastic pins and forcing them in - all because they couldn't be bothered to fit a plug!!”
“I used to test plugs and sockets for the Electrical Research Association (ERA) in Leatherhead ( my first real job) and I agree British plugs are the safest in the world - these covers are a danger I have never allowed their use for my two kids.”
“I never came across these very often when working as a Health and Safety Inspector, they are marketed for domestic use - but for some reason they were very popular in Community Centre-type buildings, where misguided people would rush out to spend money on them. Quickest route to getting rid of them was to seize them. No-one ever appealed against their seizure, for one thing, they are self evidently not as good as the original socket safety system once people take the time to look at how that works.”
The bottom line is:
Safety is designed into UK sockets - plug in covers reduce safety!