Size of Cover Plate: There are problems with the size of the cover plate in the vast majority of socket cover designs.
Suppliers of socket covers make claims such as
“Prevents little children inserting their fingers or objects into sockets” (Mothercare)
“Reduces the risk of children sticking a finger or an object into a wall socket” (IKEA)
“These safety socket inserts will prevent youngsters trying to poke things into plug sockets” (John Lewis)
When a socket has nothing plugged in, children are protected by a combination of the socket face plate and the internal shutters. When a plug is inserted the shutters are opened, so the task of protecting the holes which accommodate the power pins is passed to the plug itself. The safety of the plug is enshrined in BS 1363 which, amongst other things, demands that the periphery of the plug be at least 9.5 millimetres from any point on the power pins, this ensures that there is no way an object can be pushed into the same hole as the plug. Now look at the photo above on the left, we have traced the outline of a standard plug onto the socket faceplate, in this case the actual distance from the power pin holes is 10.5 millimetres. It would be reasonable to accept that a socket cover (which is not covered by any electrical standards or regulations) would provide similar protection to the plug, but in fact, as you can clearly see, this cover (from Mothercare) does not even cover the corners of the holes, let alone extend to the required 9.5 millimetres! Ask yourself if this supplier can possibly be taken seriously.
The central photo shows a similar cover from IKEA. Because the cover does not actually cover the holes, it is not difficult to insert a paper-clip right into the live contact, as shown here. Clearly this cannot be said to “Reduce the risk of children sticking a finger or an object into a wall socket” as the use of the cover has made it possible to do just the opposite! (Without the cover the internal shutters would have prevented this happening.)
The photo on the right shows a cover from John Lewis which has been cutaway to allow us to see the interior. (Clippasafe and Boots sell covers of the same design.) The cover has a hole through the dome shaped part which is intended to be used to help remove it from a socket, using the earth pin of a plug. Inside the cover, not only is there a gap between the cover plate and the faceplate of the socket, but the domed feature provides direct access, through the removal hole, into the live contact of the socket (as indicated by the lamp attached to our needle probe). Clearly the John Lewis (and similar) covers do not “prevent youngsters trying to poke things into plug sockets”!!!
A Fact Sheet which shows the pin dimensions of all the socket covers we have tested is available for download.
If you insert a socket cover which has pin dimensions which do not conform to BS 1363, it is a clear case of misuse of your socket. Permanent damage can result.
If your home is rented, your landlord may demand that you pay for the replacement of all sockets which have been abused in this way.
Should you be unlikely enough to suffer an electrical fire in a socket, and there is evidence of the use of socket covers which do not conform to BS 1363 pin dimensions, then your insurance company may refuse to pay out on the basis of misuse of the socket.
Please sign the e-petition on the UK Government website calling for regulation of socket covers.