“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



“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


IMPORTANT: This information applies to BS 1363 sockets only   

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

 Headlines: NHS Safety Alert published 30/6/16



NHS warns: “Socket inserts should not be used in health or social care premises, nor supplied for use in a home or residence.  Any socket inserts currently in use should be withdrawn from use and responsibly disposed of.”

The Department for Education also endorsed this warning, confirming it in the answer to a Parliamentary Question.

BEAMA (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association) has published a statement saying:
“BEAMA strongly advises against the use of socket-outlet ‘protective’ covers.”

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

Important Announcement
It is with great sadness that we inform you that one of the founders of FatallyFlawed,
David Peacock, died in November 2018. Co-founder Peter Munro said:
"David Peacock was a commited and conscientious professional engineer who unselfishly devoted a great deal of time and effort to his extremely thoroughly researched campaigns, FatallyFlawed and Plugsafe. This work stemmed from an awareness that not only were socket covers unnecessary but in many ways could be seriously harmful. It is a tribute to his efforts that, despite the initial indifference and intransigence of many official bodies, there is growing public and professional recognition that the inherent safety features of BS1363 sockets, from their inception, are only compromised by the use of socket covers, which have no useful function."

There is a full obituary on the IET website. Those involved in FatallyFlawed will continue the campaign as a fitting legacy for David. We hope to have web-site and email working fully again by the middle of January. Thank-you.

The British 13 Amp plug and socket is considered the safest in the world.  It is one of the results of UK government planning in the 1940s to improve building standards. The committee entrusted with improving electrical installations included just one woman, but that woman had an enormous impact!  Her name was Caroline Haslett, she was an electrical engineer, a pioneer in the use of electricity to benefit women by liberating them from household drudgery, and an expert on safety in the home.  She believed that a new, more convenient and safer plug and socket was needed.  As a result, the first requirement in the committee's recommendations was that it should protect young children from being able to touch live parts by means of shutters, or the inherent design of the socket.  The resulting design, still in use today, actually does both.  A baby's finger is not small enough to go into the socket holes far enough to reach the live parts, but to make sure there are insulated shutters on the inside of the holes which prevent anything but a plug being inserted.  These shutters close automatically as soon as the plug is pulled out. 

Originally introduced in 1947, British Standard 1363 has been protecting our children ever since, 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 (and the law requires that plugs are certified as meeting the requirements).  Nothing failing to meet those requirements should ever be put in a socket, there are no socket covers which meet those requirements!

BS 1363- is the part of the standard which covers plugs, BS 1363-2 applies to sockets and includes (in the scope) the following words: “Socket-outlets conforming to this standard are shuttered and therefore do not require the use of additional means to shield the current-carrying contacts when no plug is present in the socket-outlet.”

Finger insertion 9.5mm pin insertion

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

The designers of the BS 1363 socket standard wanted to ensure that it was very safe.  One of the things they did was to make the pin holes too small for a child to put a 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.  You can see from the centre photo (taken from behind the face plate) only the very tip of his finger appears through the hole, 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 his finger could reach live parts, even without the shutters present!  It was some weeks after this photo was taken that Logan started to crawl and explore things for himself, and by then his fingers were  even bigger.

  • If your socket looks like the one above, then it has shutters
  • Sockets are designed to be safe
  • The law requires sockets to be safe 
  • The shutters are automatic
  • British BS 1363 sockets have always included shutters
  • BS 1363 was introduced in 1947
  • You do not need socket covers

The photo on the right is the rear view of a partially disassembled typical socket. 

The shutter mechanism can be clearly seen, an earth pin has been inserted into the socket on the left, the shutters which normally cover the power sockets have opened.  There is nothing inserted on the right and the shutters are closed.  

Shutter Mechanism

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 First -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.


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 (although some older sockets will hold an inverted plug).

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.


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 stuck 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: BEAMA warning published 5/6/17
NHS Safety Alert published 30/6/16
Barnardo’s advice, see Fact Sheets
IKEA withdraws their socket cover!  See Review

Evidence to UK Parliament - see Parliament website

Articles from Institution of Engineering and Technology
“Socket Protectors” & “BS 1363” (explains the importance of pin size)
Daily Telegraph article
Original (2009) Institution of Engineering and Technology article

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.


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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