In electrical safety, it is often considered dangerous to be in contact with the pins of a plug whilst plugging it in. Does the plug need to be fully in for conductivity between the pins and socket to occur, or does electricity flow through the plug before it has been fully pushed in? Would touching the pins whilst plugging in the plug result in an electric shock, or would the pins not conduct whilst not fully plugged in? Surely though, if it was this easy to be electrocuted then plugs and sockets would be made differently? Thank you for an contribution made.

EDIT: This question concerns 3 pinned British plugs.

  • this sounds like the kind of thing physics or electronics se sites could answer. – KutuluMike Aug 7 '14 at 19:37
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    Note that electrocution is death by electric shock, so getting zapped and living to tell about it does not count – msmucker0527 Aug 7 '14 at 20:24
  • @msmucker0527 yeah should have said electric shock instead – Ben Porter Aug 7 '14 at 20:38
  • @msmucker0527 however, in modern English, "electrocution" can also describe electrical injury... – Ben Porter Aug 7 '14 at 20:42
  • As a side note since this is specifically about british plugs, but this is definitely possible with US plugs, as I've done it to myself once while trying to unplug a stubborn plug. It's made me a little paranoid about it ever since. – Doug Kavendek Aug 8 '14 at 5:13

The British standard for three pronged plugs is 'BS 1363'.

A properly made and undamaged plug post 1984 shouldn't allow you to touch the 'live' section of the prongs while they're touching the contacts within the socket.

This is because the prongs are coated with a non-conductive material up the the point you would be able to touch once the prongs complete the circuit within the socket.

British 3 Prong Plug coating

Initially, BS 1363 did not require the line and neutral pins to have insulating sleeves. Plugs made to the recent revisions of the standard have insulated sleeves to prevent finger contact with pins, and also to stop metal objects (for example, fallen window blind slats) from becoming live if lodged between the wall and a partly pulled out plug. The length of the sleeves prevents any live contacts from being exposed while the plug is being inserted or removed.

Sleeved pins became required by the standard in 1984.

Wikipedia Article

This Youtube video lists some amazing saftey features of the British plug.

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  • Ahhh yes, that's what they are for! Thank you for the detailed and informative answer, I forgot that the third pin is the safety one also! – Ben Porter Aug 7 '14 at 22:26

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