Electric sockets - how safe are safety plugs?

If you don’t practice electrical safety, there can be electrifying results - Unknown

Regarding baby-proofing the house, I used to be an advocate for using safety plugs to cover socket holes when not in use. Imagine how surprised/embarrassed I was when I discovered how un-safe these ‘safety’ plugs actually are. You know the safety plugs (socket covers) that lots of retail stores sell, sometimes separately, or as part of a safety pack? Well, reports have shown that they are not really safe, and there are some campaigns trying to discourage parents and childcare providers from using them.  Some retail stores, including IKEA for instance, stopped the sales of these plugs and have withdrawn them from stores since 2014. 

Unfortunately, crawling babies and toddlers are able to yank off these safety plugs from the sockets with little stress. One may begin to wonder why these safety plugs are dangerous. I am going to get a bit technical here, so please bear with me:

A typical safety plug, and how it fits into sockets
  • The image above is a typical British 13amp socket. The pin hole at the top (called the earth) has a shutter mechanism. In simple terms, this means electricity will not start flowing through the socket unless the shutter system or earth is opened (by pushing a pin or plug into it). This is the standard for British sockets.
  • Using safety plugs compromise this safety system, as inserting the plug (into the earth pin hole) activates the flow of electricity; and we know babies can pull these out easily. 
  • Sometimes these plugs can get stuck in earth hole as children may insert the plugs upside down – activating the flow of current. This is like a disaster waiting to happen. All that is needed is a tiny baby finger (most likely wet with saliva) in one of the other two holes, and there is electric shock. Also, these socket covers/plugs have not been approved by any regulatory body as safe for use.
A safety plug plugged in upside down
Now over to Nigeria:
Nigeria imports a lot of electrical appliances, fittings, and accessories from different countries, and the standards for these items vary. I honestly do not know what the standard is in Nigeria, as I have seen sockets (typically the British type) - some with and without the shutter system. The last time I had an electrician fix sockets for me, he bought the ones with the shutter system (see picture below). It is probable that these are the new ones and the old ones I have seen around (and still see) are gradually being phased out.

Whatever the case, and pending when we have uniform standards on electrical accessories, try to ensure that when you need to fix electrical sockets, you get the ones with the shutter system. That way you don’t have to worry about getting or using safety plugs. I understand there are still other electrical issues to worry about here in Nigeria, just try to avoid this being one of them. 

I felt I had to talk about these safety plugs because I’ve seen some parents innocently buy them as safety devices in a bid to keep their kids safe. Read comments from parents that have had challenges with the safety plugs. If you are one of the very cautious parents and worried about electric sockets, try these socket covers that slide on to the the sockets and cover them completely (they can also be locked). They come in various designs as well. 

Do you have any stories or experiences with safety plugs? Please share with us by commenting below.

The Baby Analyst.

Not a doctor, just a financial analyst who loves kids


I bought some of these plugs online when they arrived I found that I couldnt use them in Nigeria. wrong fit. It is advisable moothers get the right plugs.
Thanks TBA. Well done!
Thanks Dianah. That's one of the major problems: Nigeria allows the importation of several electrical accessories since there are no enforceable standards for these things.

These safety plugs themselves are not safe - at least not the way they are right now. If we can get the sockets with the shutter mechanism, we wouldn't need to use the safety plugs at all. If you must cover the sockets however, use the safety covers that go over the entire socket.

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