“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
 

Clippasafe/Boots/John Lewis

IMPORTANT: This information applies to BS 1363 sockets only   

Model4N Boots Model4I Model4S

The Clippasafe cover (1st picture) is also sold under the John Lewis brand.  This type is also frequently sold on Amazon and eBay.  Boots sell an oval version of the Clippasafe .  All three brands are flexible enough to make it easy to put in the cover upside down(inserting only the dummy earth pin).  The pictures above are all of the original versions, however there are also new versions with some design changes, but all three brands continue to be sold as if there had been no change.  The original version  continues to be sold in an unbranded form, we bought some from Amazon Marketplace in April 2014.

All the pins on all three original versions are the wrong size.  Watch the video below to see why this matters.

The samples we have obtained from John Lewis and Clippasafe tend to snap in two when inserted upside down with a little pressure. This happened in at least half of the tests we carried out. A broken earth pin remaining in the socket and holding open the shutters is particularly dangerous.  If the broken pin is then removed by a child it could be a serious choking threat (note the sharply pointed ends). 

Model4earthpin1
Model4Broken1

Model4probe(b)1The slot featured in these covers is provided to allow theModel4probe(c)1
earth pin of a plug to act as the removal tool for the cover (although we have not found this necessary, fingers alone have always proved sufficient). 
However, as you can see from these photographs, the slot in the original versions also allows access to contact the live part of the socket using our needle test probe. 

To explain this better, we have cut away an original style cover to show a view of what is going on under the dome.  You can see that the cover plate only makes contact with the socket around its edge.  internally there is a space between the surface of the socket and the underside of the plate, this space, combined with the chamfered edge of the socket hole , allows free passage for the probe to be inserted alongside the live pin.  (The edge of the pin holes are chamfered  to allow plugs to be inserted easily, this chamfer is just enough to guide the probe.)  John Lewis says: “These safety socket inserts will prevent youngsters trying to poke things into plug sockets.”  Boots says: “Boots plug socket covers are an effective way to keep prying fingers away from electric shocks”.  FatallyFlawed says “Look at the pictures, are these claims true?”

It is not possible to insert  any foreign object into a BS 1363 socket with the shutters closed.  However, the use of a socket cover allowing access to the live parts renders the socket, unsafe.  Boots told FatallyFlawed in 2008 that in excess of 4.5 million of these covers had been sold, that will have created 4.5 million dangerous sockets.  The cover could easily have been designed in a way which would make such access impossible, and this has been demonstrated in the new version (a detail is shown left) where two partitions have been added to the inside of the dome to prevent this happening.  Clippasafe_new_detail  Clippasafe_new_invert This is a clear indication that Clippasafe now accepts that the original design was dangerous, but they have failed to issue warnings to users of the millions of the original versions to advise that they should not to be used!

Unlike the original, the dummy power pins are now the correct size,  but that does not stop the cover being inserted upside down, as shown right.  This is because the cover is still too flexible.

Another new feature is the strangely cut-away dummy earth pin, why have they done this?  It is once again clear that Clippasafe have no concept of how to design something which can be safely inserted into a UK socket!  It is very important that all of the pins should be the correct size and shape, this “earth pin” completely fails to meet that requirement.  See Socket Damage to learn more.

We took at look at reviews of the new version on Amazon, here are some examples: 
'yorcol' says: "The top prong is tapered at the top, therefore when trying to insert them into the socket they will not go into the socket."
'toddlers'  says:  "I bought these for a toddler group and had to throw them out. They needed a hammer to put into sockets and very difficult to remove. A total waste of money."
'noeal' says:  "At first I was disappointed because I couldn't fit them into the socket outlets, it was to hard. I gave them another try and it finally fit, pushing strongly." This comment is the most telling, what did that strong push do?  It may have damaged the shutter mechanism so that the shutters were left permanently open and ineffective!  Or, as shown below, it may have damaged the earth contact itself.

PinDetailShutters are designed to be opened by a properly shaped earth pin, not some other object.

The pictures on the left show an earth pin contact from a common type of socket.  A number of manufacturers, including MK and Marbo make sockets like this.  The contact is visible at the face of the socket and relies on the shape of the earth pin to allow it to enter.  You can clearly see that the end of the real earth pin is shaped to fit, BS 1363 requires that the tip of the earth pin must be no more than 2mm wide, sockets are designed with the space between the empty contacts about 3mm.   Compare this to the tip of the Clippasafe pin which is the full 4mm width of the pin, you can see that this cannot possibly fit!  (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)

An adult who forces in a cover like this can cause real damage, as shown in the following pictures.

DamageDetailThe first picture is a close-up of the same contacts shown above, you can see that they are equally spaced in the earth pin hole, and the shutter opening device sits between them.  The Clippasafe cover was then pushed hard into the socket and bent the contacts!  You can see this in the centre picture, the left hand contact is now lower (and further back) than it was, the right hand contact is even more out of place.  The third picture is the same view as the centre one, but with the back of the socket removed to allow it to be lit from the rear for a clearer picture.  This socket is now damaged beyond safe use, the contacts have been bent so badly that a real earth pin will no longer fit!  It would have to be replaced by a qualified electrician, a costly exercise, and all due to the complete incompetence of the Clippasafe designer who did not bother to find out about the correct size and shape!!!  (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)

It really is important that anything which is inserted into a socket is exactly the right size.  Sockets are designed to fit plugs, not the other way round, so anything which is not the size of a plug is potentially damaging.  We are not saying that a Clippasafe type cover will damage all sockets, but it will damage some sockets, and who knows which ones?  Are YOU prepared to take that risk? 

See Socket Damage for more information on problems caused by incorrect pin dimensions and shapes.


Clippasafe claimed on their website that covers “will prevent children from plugging in electrical items such as heaters and hair straighteners”.  But, the Clippasafe type is“easily removed from the socket by inserting the plug you need to use” (Clippasafe’s own description of their product) so the suggestion that it can prevent children plugging in a dangerous device is clearly absolute nonsense!

The big problem with suggesting that socket covers have a role to play in preventing children from being harmed by dangerous appliances is that it detracts from the only sensible message: Parents and carers should ensure that ALL dangerous appliances are kept beyond the reach of children

Our video below demonstrates the problems of the original Clippasafe type cover.
 

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