02 Nov Plug Socket covers – latest safety advice
In many homes across the UK, plastic socket covers give parents confidence about children’s safety, but in recent years, safety experts have taken a stance that might surprise you.
So what’s the problem?
Kids are explorers, they play, prod, poke, take apart, twist, and chew. It’s no wonder parents worry about children poking things into electrical sockets, (Updated 29 Dec 21: especially with a BBC reported social media trend to touch exposed contacts with a penny)! And what if they find an unguarded socket and plug an electrical item, like hair straighteners and burn themselves? For years, shops around the world have sold plastic socket covers for just a few pounds to help give parents assurance that their children are safe. So what’s the problem?…… Have a look at the image below…
Almost 100 years ago, an engineer called Caroline Haslett helped design the 13A socket. A top priority in the design was that it be safe for children and it’s a design still used in the UK and many other countries around the world today. It is considered by some to be the safest domestic socket design in the world. Why is it so effective at keeping children safe?
- The holes for the plug pins are too small for even a new-born baby to put a finger in!
- Internal shutters prevent children from poking objects into the socket. The shutters are automatically held in place by springs and are only opened when a plug is inserted into the socket.
- Most sockets have shutters which are operated by the insertion of the earth pin (the largest pin at the top of the plug). Some sockets require the insertion of more than one pin at the same time.
- The basic method of earth pin operation is perfectly safe providing that children are not given access to tools which are the same shape as an earth pin and which could be used to defeat the shutters. Unfortunately, a socket cover is such a tool!
- Modern houses have safety devices incorporated into the ‘fuse box’ that provide good protection from electrocution whether it be caused at the plug, wires or a device in the hand.
- In the image above, it shows the result of a child playing with a guard and inserting it upside down. If it’s now twisted, it will break and could leave broken parts inside which leave the internal safety mechanism permanently open and unsafe.
By using a ‘safety cover’ you override the internal safety mechanism that was the very reason the 13A socket was created.
Don’t covers also stop children plugging in dangerous electrical items?
This is a harder discussion, because the answer is….maybe? Previously there have been comments made by respectable organisations like ROSPA, that socket covers could help prevent this problem. However, children are clever and have strong fingers, and they can work out how to pull out socket covers. Because of this, more recent ROSPA advice is
…all electrical equipment is stored safely away when not in use and children are supervised and warned to keep away from plug socket outlets until they are capable of understanding the risks and are able to use them safely. 13-amp power sockets made to BS 1363 incorporate a shutter mechanism, which prevents inappropriate access to the live connectors. RoSPA therefore does not consider it necessary to recommend the use of socket covers. https://www.rospa.com/Home-Safety/Resources/Policy-Statements/Electricity
If you remain worried, you can buy items that cover the entire socket.
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At Tots Town, we follow the advice of our electrical safety inspector, and our independent play safety examiner, whom both recommend socket covers are not used in play centres nor homes. So while other countries use unprotected sockets that can allow children to poke in items, the UK doesn’t. Please tell your friends, and let’s make cheap socket covers something from a bygone era. You can read more of our blogs at https://tots-town.co.uk/diary/ and discover more about how we work with brilliant people to open and grow their own role play venues here.
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