Why you should never use these plug adapters!

We’ve all seen them. The travel adapter supplied by manufacturers, these deadly adapters should never be used. In this post I’ll explain why you should never use these plug adapters.

It’s also illegal (under the Plugs and Sockets Safety Regulations 1994) to receive an electrical item supplied without a UK 3 Pin BS 1363 plug attached. The UK electrical system comprises of a Live, Neutral and Earth cabling system.

Some sellers have tried to combat this by suppling goods with a two-prong plug but chuck in one of these multi-adapter travel plugs.

Image of a typical plug adapter – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

These plugs are completely illegal and unsafe to use in UK homes, the reasons of this I’ll go on to explain further.

No Fuse.

Every UK plug comes with a removable fuse, this fuse must conform to BS 646 and is your first step in electrical safety. If your appliance develops a fault, your replaceable fuse is designed to ‘blow’ and stop your appliance from operating. These travel adapters are non-fused meaning you effectively bypass a fundamental safety feature.

Image Internally, Note the Lack of a Fuse – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

Mixed Polarity.

These travel adapters also have a massive design flaw, that put’s you and others at serious risk. You’re able to mix the polarity without any issues and can cause serious harm in doing so. You might not think of doing it yourself but put these plugs in the hands of kids or someone with impediments and you’ve got yourself an electrocution risk or fire!

Without any restrictions you’re able to plug an EU/US plug into this adapter in the following methods:

Live & Neutral: This is the correct method of this adapter, this will allow the user of a two-pin plug to use the item on the UK electrical system.

Image of Live and Neutral – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

Live & Earth: This method will certainly blow your main RCD in your home (If it works) and will cause a massive and instant flash and bang of electrical current. It could cause a fire and serious harm to the person plugging in the plug.

Image of Live and Earth Insertion – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

Neutral & Earth: This will probably not do much in terms of safety as both are ‘safety’ wires in effect, but still you can cross them using this plug.

Image of Neutral and Earth Insertion – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

Build Quality.

Just the general build quality of these plugs is a course of concern. The moulded plastic is flimsy and bendable using only the slightest amount of force. The way the brass pins have been designed is also a massive weak stress point. Without much pressure you can bend and snap these pins as there’re held in using a threaded screw. This screw then touches the internal electrical plates.

Image of a Removed Pin – Image Source – My Helpful Hints (Subject to Copyright)

The internal electrical plates are also very flimsy too. They bend very easily and without doubt will malfunction in the event of an electrical issue.

Other Issues.

There a few more issues. These are to do with overall design.

All UK power sockets have an in-built shutter system designed to prevent this from happening. It works when the earth pin of a plug must be inserted for the socket to flow electrical current to any plug. But with these adapters inserted and powered on you’re basically bypassing this safety feature from the socket as all three pins of the adapter will allow electrical current to flow to the plug. These plug adapters then act as a socket, but with no safety features in place.

The overall shape of the plug is in breach of BS 1363 as all safe plugs are shaped as to prevent something from entering into the electrical system by accident. Your standard UK plug acts as a shield, covering the socket.

Why you should never use these plug adapters!

I think the above is enough to convince anyone to ditch these illegal and highly dangerous adapters. It’s not illegal to use an adapter, but you need to ensure the ones you use comply with UK law and electrical standards. You need to ensure the following features are present.

Fused: Your adapter should be fused.

BS 8546 Marking: British Standard for travel adapters for the UK electrical system.

Have Safety Shutters: These plastic shields should be present.

If you have a few of these illegal adapters knocking around your home, you should immediately dispose of them. Prevention is much better than dealing with a massive electrical issue afterwards. Any appliance sold as ‘New’ in the UK should come with a UK plug already attached. If you get an electrical item with an EU/US plug attached, you should complain directly to the seller and demand a refund.

Smaller electrical items these days are supplied with only a USB plug.  This is OK as you’ll go onto plugging this into your BS 1363 plug. This is a great way for an international retailer to get around the UK law without causing injury or damage to you or your property.


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Darren Author

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