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There is a very interesting Youtube Video British Plugs Are Better Than All Other Plugs, And Here's Why that indicates some engineering reasons why the British power plug is safer than for example the American style power plug.

As you can see in the video there are a variety of features that ought to make the British plugs safer than American and other plugs, including:

  • the powered slots are shuttered until opened by a third safety-pin
  • the pins are covered partway down by an insulator so you cannot touch the metal pins when they are connected
  • the plug has an independent fuse
  • the internal wires are colour-labeled "bLue" for Left and "bRown" for Right
  • the grounding wire is longer than the powered wires (so if the cable is yanked out the ground should be the last thing to disconnect)
  • The distance from pins to edge of plug is large to reduce risk of fingers getting near pins.
  • The cable exits at 90 degrees so that pulling the cable is less likely to pull the plug partially out.
  • The ground pin is longer so last to unplug.
  • It is part of a system that has switches on outlets so that appliances can be turned off at the wall (rather than leaving unplugged plugs lying on the floor).
  • The fuse is located so you have to unplug before changing.
  • cables are clamped by a cord-grip

Do these interesting and seemingly important engineering feats bear out in reality? Has anyone any got any statistics on the number of deaths and injuries from electrical plugs in Britain, and compared them to other areas that do not have these safety features in their power plugs?

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Has anyone any got any statistics on the number of deaths and injuries from electrical plugs in Britain, and compared them to other areas that do not have these safety features in their power plugs?

Probably not, many have looked for such data without success.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is often used to record causes of death. This has some codes for electrocution but they do not distinguish deaths due to design of plug or outlet from deaths due to faults in cables or equipment for example.

Are British plugs safer than all other plugs?

You cannot look at plugs in isolation, they are part of a system. In particular, BS1363 plugs are designed for use in UK electrical installations with wall-sockets that also meet compatible standards and are specifically designed for use with ring-mains circuits - which are standard in the UK but not used in almost all other countries.

British plugs do seem to have a greater number of safety features compared to other national standards of similar age (e.g. US plugs). In the absence of reliable and properly comparable statistics, any assessment of their actual relative safety must be a matter of subjective opinion or a theoretical engineering assessment.


References

  • Yes, exactly. :o) I mean, the more I look at it the more I think it is an marvel of engineering and forethought. I just wonder whether it has made a significant difference in a statistical/actuarial sense. – Brian M. Hunt Jul 29 '14 at 12:19
  • Note that the fuse is useless as a life saving safety (it lets a few amps go through before melting, more than enough for killing a human). – Sklivvz Jul 29 '14 at 18:10
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    @Skliwz: Your life is still at risk from the appliance cable overheating and setting fire to your house while you and your family are asleep. Electrocution isn't the only electrical hazard BS1363 designers were concerned about. – RedGrittyBrick Jul 30 '14 at 9:00
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    @RedGrittyBrick agreed. I should have prefixed my comment with "contrary to popular belief..." – Sklivvz Jul 30 '14 at 16:30
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    Note that due to the possibility of a break in the ring getting unnoticed, it is claimed that there is a much higher fire risk for ring-mains installations, so I would say the whole system must be compared (possibly including things like voltage too) – PlasmaHH Jul 31 '14 at 14:26

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