“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

Other Dangers

IMPORTANT: This information applies to BS 1363 sockets only   

British extension sockets also have to meet BS 1363 and therefore they also include internal safety shutters. 
However, there is a loophole in the standard which is exploited by many manufacturers allowing them to make extension sockets so slim that it is possible to put an inverted normal plug into the earth pin only, this results in the shutters being held open with the live contacts accessible, as shown in these pictures.  FatallyFlawed has brought this to the attention of the relevant authorities, however there appears to be no interest from either the BSI or the responsible government department to correct this oversight.

MultiWay top1
MultiWay side1

The picture to the right is a real life situation found in a care home during routine Portable Appliance Testing.  This extension socket was found in this dangerous condition, fixed above a residents bed.  It actually combines the danger caused by socket covers with a dangerous extension lead.
Thanks to Mr Martin Ripley for permission to reproduce this picture.

Martin Ripley picture

We urge you to check any extension sockets that you may use in areas that children can access.
Make sure that you only use the type which has enough space between the earth pin and the edge of the faceplate to prevent this problem. 

FatallyFlawed is mainly concerned with the safety of BS 1363 Sockets, this is because they are normally the only live electrical device which is fixed in a position easily accessible to children, and that makes their safety of special significance as you cannot simply move a socket.  It remains the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that other, portable, devices which may give rise to shocks or burns are kept beyond the reach of small children. 


In February 2009 Liam, 22 months old, was killed when he received an electric shock while playing with a plug and lead he had found lying in his home.  A handyman, who was installing an appliance, had removed from it the lead with attached plug.  He then left the lead lying where Liam could find it.  The handyman should have safely removed the plug from the lead before disconnecting the lead. Liam took the lead to his playroom, plugged it into a socket and grabbed hold of the bare wires.  According to a pathologist Liam died instantly.  More information can be found at Shocked!


Removing a conventional re-wirable plug from a lead is easy.  Open the plug and disconnect the wires from the terminals then remove the plug, if you intend to keep the plug, make sure that you secure the two parts of the plug together before storing it, and keep beyond the reach of children.

If the plug you need to remove is a moulded type (non-rewirable) then you need to take more precautions.  First, remove the fuse.  Second, twist the two power pins using pliers (as shown in this picture), this prevents the plug from being inserted into a socket.  Finally, cut the cable cleanly, as close to the plug as possible, and then safely dispose of the plug (without the fuse) so that it cannot be found by children.

When checking your home for potential dangers to children, please ensure that you consider detachable power leads, as these will always have a socket on the end which will not have any protection.  Here are some typical examples:


Never, ever, rely on socket covers to prevent children plugging anything in - the only way to ensure that children cannot poke anything into one of these leads is to keep it out of their hands. 


Old Style Plug

Compare the old plug on the left with the modern versions on the right.  Modern plugs have insulated sleeves on the power pins, but old plugs did not.  The sleeves ensure that a plug which is only partially inserted will not expose any live pins.  Check your plugs to make sure that you do not still have any of the old type in use, if you do , then replace them with a new plug. 

moulded and rewireable BS 1363 plugs


The photo below is of an illegally imported counterfeit plug which does not conform to BS 1363.

Illegal plug

We have become aware that there are a number of unscrupulous web retailers who sell counterfeit plugs which, despite being marked “BS 1363” are not compliant.  these plugs are usually sold as part of a lead with a socket (similar to one of those above) on the other end. 

A common indicator of a counterfeit plug is an earth pin which is partially insulated.  BS 1363 requires that all power pins (the shorter pins) are partially insulated.  However, earth pins must be solid brass, or, in the case of plugs intended solely for use with non-earthed devices, solid plastic.  BS 1363 is quite specific, partially insulated earth pins are not allowed. (They could be very dangerous, depending on the construction of the socket into which they are plugged).

We have seen counterfeit plugs in which the pins are completely the wrong size, too short, too long, too thick and too thin.  In May 2011 we bought a lead from an ebay seller which had a plug that was completely the wrong size and was fitted with a fuse which was so loose it rattled!
In addition, the fuse was the wrong size for the lead
More information at www.bs1363.org.uk

If you are sold a plug which appears to be counterfeit, please tell your local Trading Standards.



This is an example of a so-called Universal Socket.  It supposedly allows many international plugs, plus UK plugs, to be inserted.  Such sockets are dangerous, and are illegal in the UK.  Despite that they are sometimes found on sale here.  They have inadequate shutters (sometimes no shutters at all), allow the use of unfused plugs (which is a fire risk in the UK because we rely on the fuse in the plug to provide protection), they allow reversed connections, and do not provide any connection to the earth on many foreign plugs!

You should avoid these, without exception.  See www.universalsocket.org.uk to learn more.

Fire devastation

The use of unfused plugs is a fire risk in the UK because we rely on the fuse in the plug to provide protection to the flexible cord.  This picture shows the result of a severe fire in a building used for migrant worker accommodation on a farm in Fife, Scotland.  Investigators found that European plugs had been forced into an extension lead. Foreign plugs should only  be used in the UK if connected to a properly fused adaptor.

The full story was published in Issue 9 of the Electrical Safety Council’s magazine “Switched On”, page 17.  (The Electrical Safety Council is now Electrical Safety First)


There are, of course, other electrical dangers which parents and carers need to consider, reference may be made to sites listed on Safety Sites page for help and advice.

There is one other particular danger to which we would like to draw attention, and that is the standard lamp holder.  Unlike 13A sockets, most lamp holders have no inbuilt protection.  When the lamp is removed the electrical contacts are fully exposed in a way that makes it easy for adult fingers to touch the contacts, let alone those of a child.  Removal of a lamp is not beyond a child.  In addition to this there is always the danger that the glass bulb of a lamp may be broken, eg if a table lamp is knocked to the ground.  A broken bulb leaves electricity conductors fully exposed.  All this is in addition to the danger of burns from an illuminated bulb, particularly if the lamp has fallen to the floor.

Parents are encouraged to carefully consider their use of table lamps, bedside lamps and floor standing lamps in areas frequented by children.

[Home] [Cover Reviews] [Videos] [Size Matters!!] [Socket Damage] [Fact Sheets] [FAQ] [Pro Feedback] [User Comments] [Mfg Feedback] [References] [Other Dangers] [Safety Sites] [About Us] [Contact Us]