“I normally refuse to join in campaigns but this seemed so important, and the ‘safety’ covers so absurd and dangerous, that I agreed”
Author, TV presenter & Patron of FatallyFlawed
Dr Adam Hart-Davis

Adam_Hart-Davis2

johnnyball

“Sockets in the UK are designed to keep people safe. Our UK design has been better than the majority of other countries, for many years.  Socket covers are an absolute con and totally unnecessary.” 
Engineering, Maths and Science presenter on TV
FatallyFlawed Supporter

Johnny Ball
 

FatallyFlawed

IMPORTANT: This information applies to BS 1363 sockets only   

The Myth of “Safety Socket Covers” - unnecessary and a hazard!

 

 

Children cannot poke things into British sockets - they have built in automatic shutters for protection.

  • The British 13 Amp plug and socket is considered the safest in the world.  No external protection required.
  • Originally introduced in 1947 as: British Standard 1363: Fused Plugs And Shuttered Socket Outlets.
  • UK law requires all sockets sold to conform to the
    BS 1363 standard, ensuring your child's safety.
  • Sockets are made to accept plugs which meet very exact requirements.  Nothing failing to meet those requirements should be put in a socket

No socket covers have been approved for use in UK BS 1363 sockets.

  • No socket covers are available which meet the correct dimensions for plugs!  Anything made to the wrong dimensions may cause permanent damage.
  • Socket covers introduce a variety of dangers; they make sockets less safe, not more.
  • Some socket covers have many faults, some just a few, but none makes your sockets safer.
  • No responsible national body recommends using socket covers. (Including the UK Government, RoSPA, Ofsted, Child Accident Prevention Trust and Electrical Safety Council.)

Socket Covers should NOT be inserted into sockets - they are dangerous!
This website has lots of detail on socket covers, the dangers they create, and reviews of many different types.

- - - - -
“Socket-outlets to BS 1363 are the safest in the world and have been since they were first designed in the 1940s.  Socket protectors are not regulated for safety, therefore, using a non-standard system to protect a long established safe system is not sensible.”
Quote from an article by Mark Coles, Technical Regulations Manager, The Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Exposed

Unlike real plugs, the various design faults of socket covers allow a curious child to insert them (upside down) into the earth pin only.  On many sockets this opens the safety shutters and allows children access to the live contacts! 

Normally it is quite difficult to find an object which will do that, and stay in place.

The left hand socket shows the holes are covered by insulated shutters,  preventing objects other than a plug being inserted
The other socket shows what happens when a child plugs an upside down cover into the earth hole.  It can be clearly seen that this has operated the shutter system and exposed the live contacts.

Exposed_Side

Plug-in Socket Covers Are Dangerous! 
The so-called “safety socket cover” usually takes  the form of a dummy 13A plug, but real plugs must be made to a very precise size, and sockets are made to fit them.  No socket cover we can find is the right size!  Putting the wrong size and shape object into a socket causes a number of problems, including permanent socket damage:

  • Socket contact damage -results in overheating and possible fire
  • Socket shutter damage - the shutters will not be able to protect children
  • Some socket covers make it possible to poke pins and paper clips into the live parts!
  • Broken plastic pins suck in the earth hole - prevents shutters from closing
  • Wrong size pins can make covers easy to remove, some even pop out by themselves!
  • Children like to play with socket covers - plugging in upside down opens the shutter and exposes live contacts

Why make it easy to defeat the safety measures your sockets already have?

We asked MK, one of the foremost manufacturers of BS 1363 sockets, for their views on socket covers.  They replied:
“MK does not see the need for or support the use of so-called ‘socket-protectors’ in BS 1363-2 socket-outlets due to the fact that protection against access to the live and neutral socket contacts  is always provided by the shutters.
At first sight, it ‘seems obvious’ to many that such devices will improve safety but in practice they do the opposite as shown by the numerous examples on the FatallyFlawed website.  

‘Socket-protectors’ do not comply with any standard and in practice reduce safety via various means e.g. exposing the live and neutral socket contacts (the opposite of their purpose), providing an easy means of opening shutters by allowing operation of the earth operated shutter  mechanism, damaging the socket contacts due to oversize pins and/or short pins.

If  ‘socket protectors’ are to continue to be allowed on the UK (and other European markets) then, as a minimum, it  is essential that they are designed and manufactured so that:-
The pin dimensions (including length) align with the plug pin dimensions in BS 1363-1.
The materials used are robust and not so soft that they allow the device to be misused by allowing it to operate shutters of an earth operated shutter mechanism.
The device has a surface area which is large enough to completely cover the socket-outlet apertures so that the live socket contacts are not exposed.

MK goes to great lengths to ensure that all its BS 1363 plugs and sockets are safe.  Inserting incorrectly dimensioned products into a socket-outlet can both damage the socket and reduce its safety.”

It is a myth that children cannot remove covers.
 
The pins on socket covers are never quite  the same size as a plug, so they cannot properly fit into sockets.  (See Size Matters!!)  Although very small children may find it difficult to remove covers, they are often so loose that it is easy (check our videos).  A cover which is tight in one socket may be very loose in another. 
Babies of just 5 months have been known to remove socket covers! 
(See user comments page). 

Children usually have capabilities beyond our expectations and rapidly learn to use tools.  They may take advantage of anything which comes to hand to lever out the cover. 

LATEST:
Evidence to the committee reviewing the new Consumer Rights Bill - see Parliament website

Articles from Institution of Engineering and Technology

     “Socket Protectors”  

    “BS 1363”  *NEW* explains the importance of pin size
 
Press: 

Daily Telegraph article
Original (2008) Institution of Engineering and Technology article

Fingers Finger insertion 9.5mm pin insertion

Another myth put about by socket cover suppliers is that children can put their fingers into unprotected sockets! 

When BS 1363 was defined in the 1940s the designers wanted to make sure that the socket was very safe.  One of the things they did was to make the pin holes too small for a child to put their finger in.  To demonstrate this we show the hand of 15 week old Logan against the face plate of a socket.  We removed the shutters from the face plate and asked Logan’s mother to push his smallest finger into the socket hole as far as she could.  As you can see from the centre photo (taken from the rear of the face plate) the very tip of his finger appears through the hole, but it would go no further.  The standard requires that all sockets be tested to ensure that a pin has to be inserted a distance of 9.6mm into the socket before it makes contact with any live parts.  We cut the plastic pin of a socket cover to be exactly that length, and then inserted into the socket hole.  By comparing the right hand photo with the one of Logan’s finger you can easily see that there is no way that Logan’s finger could reach live parts, even without the shutters present!  Bear in mind that it will be some weeks after this photo was taken that Logan starts to crawl and explore things for himself, and by then his fingers will be even bigger.

Socket covers usually have shorter pins than real plugs, and none of those we tested are the correct size to fit into a socket safely.  They can be impossible to fit securely into some sockets, see our video for more on this.

Children can to be more adept at removing covers than are adults.  (See Videos)
Luca, 11 months old, demonstrates how to remove a cover in 2 seconds! 

See User Comments for real stories of children removing and playing with socket covers.  What about the very real possibility that an unused cover is left within reach of a child who then plays with it and uses it to open the shutters? 

Socket covers can cause permanent damage to sockets, oversize pins can result in overheating (as illustrated) and possibly the socket catching fire! 
For more information on this see the “Pro Feedback” and “Size Matters!!” pages.
Socket covers can destroy the shutters!  See our new page.

Scorched
Model2detail

Covers sold by IKEA, Mothercare, Clippasafe, Boots,  and John Lewis  are so badly designed that they allow objects to be inserted into the live connection!
This is what they claim to prevent, and yet the opposite is true!


See our Cover Reviews for details.

Model4probe

See our Cover Review page for more pictures of dangerous covers.  Do you  wish to take this risk?

Now that you know about these dangers, how comfortable do you feel about leaving your child in a nursery that uses “safety socket covers”?

Do you have any idea if “safety socket covers” conform to standards?  What does it say on the packet or on the cover itself? 

Actually, socket covers are UNREGULATED!   None have been approved for use in UK sockets.

All 13A electrical sockets which are installed in your home must, by law, conform to BS 1363, which means that they must be safe and have been properly tested for correct insulation.  Have you asked the manufacturers of covers that you may use if they have been properly tested for insulation?  (No manufacturers have told us that they do!)

Why do you think it is that manufacturers of BS 1363 plugs and sockets do not provide “safety socket covers”? 
Because safety shutters are built in!

To learn more please see our Cover Reviews, Our Videos, and our list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Our References page includes a brief history of  BS 1363, and additional technical details including references to source documents and background to the tests we carry out.

Please do contact us to tell us of your own experiences, and raise any other questions.

There are various child safety issues regarding electricity which parents and other carers need to be aware of, and good advice is available from a number of organisations, including those listed on our Safety Sites links page.  This site is specifically concerned with protecting children from exposure to electric shock from power sockets.  See About Us  for our qualifications.

Do YOU still think “safety socket covers” are a good idea?

The bottom line is:
Safety is designed into UK sockets  - plug in  covers reduce safety!

 

 

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