World’s safest plugs for SA

2014-01-25 00:00

IF you’re finding that all those adapters for two- and three-pronged electrical plugs and sockets are cluttering up your home and travel bags, get ready to add more. South Africa has adopted a new, safer plug and socket standard, and plans to ensure it is implemented in all new installations, probably from next year.

“Plugs and sockets based on SANS 164-2 will be available from April this year,” says South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) SC23B mirror committee chairperson Gianfranco Campetti in a recent Tech Central article ( It could, however, take a while longer for products fitted with the new plugs to reach shop shelves.

The new “preferred standard” for electrical plugs and sockets — SANS 164-2 — was introduced in the South African National Standard for the Wiring of Premises (known to most as the “Wiring Code”) in 2013, said Campetti. Its three small holes are too small for children’s fingers.

It is aimed at eventually replacing the unique South African three-pin (SANS 164-1) plug and socket standard that, as all travellers know, is not compatible with any other plug and socket standard anywhere in the world.

A manager at Blomeyers Electrical appliances said that she had not heard of the pending changes. “I know that everything has to be SABS approved, but I have never heard of that new [plug] system.”

Gary Hemingway of Hemingways Armature Winders and Electrical CC said he had also not heard of the coming changes.

An employee who did not give his name at Dawoods Hardware and Electrical Wholesalers said they also have not heard anything about the new standard and added, “That is going to be a big problem”.

Kevin Moodley of KS Electrical in Piet­ermaritzburg said he had heard of the new system, and felt it would prove to be costly for consumers.

“There are a lot of costs involved. Although I don’t know what the new socket outlets would sell for, it’s going to cost R150 to change one plus the cost of the new socket outlet.”

He estimated the total cost to change to the new socket outlet could be around R250 each.

He said a safety cover could be purchased for around R5 each currently. “That’s a much cheaper way to make your home safe.”

Wayne Samson, CEO of Ellies, a Southern African manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of domestic electrical and other products, confirmed that they are manufacturing some of the new plugs and sockets.

The new system is the safest in the world, said Campetti. But while it will ensure that a child finds it all but impossible to fit their finger in the new socket to get shocked, SA residents will also sadly find it impossible to fit their corresponding new plug into any socket outside of (some of) their buildings here at home or in Brazil. No other plug outside of Brazil will fit the new sockets here either.

That’s because SA and Brazil are the only two countries to adopt a standard that once had aspirations to rule the world.

In the early nineties, with ambitions to be “at the forefront of this worldwide plug and socket configuration”, says Campetti, the SABS bought into the IEC 906 standard — a plug and socket design that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) had hoped would standardise plugs and sockets around the world. The IEC is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that sets standards for electrical and electronic technologies. The SABS and many similar bodies around the world have adopted the standards set by the IEC.

“It was seen as a fantastic opportunity for the country to be at the forefront of this ‘worldwide’ plug and socket configuration and to be the first country to adopt it,” said Campetti.

But the rest of the world’s manufacturers balked at the costs involved in switching, says Campetti, and opted not to adopt the standard.

Except for SA and Brazil.

SA introduced the IEC 906 standard as SANS 164-2 and “this means that from around 2015, all new installations in SA will have to be fitted with the new standard, and the old SANS 164-1 will be phased out over the next 10 to 20 years … or longer,” says Campetti.

On the upside, the new standard will bring South Africa the world’s safest plug, and the roll-out will likely create jobs and stimulate local manufacturing somewhat.

It does mean, however, that for quite a long time to come, more plug adapters will likely be needed to ensure that your new kettle fits your house, your old decoder fits your holiday accommodation, and anything else electrical that you own fits the rest of the world.

The new-configuration plug and socket system to be introduced in South Africa from next year replaces our unique three-prong system (seen right) with yet another almost unique-to-SA system. The snaller holes on the new socket are safer for children.

PHOTO: Tech Central

V Gianfranco Campetti

SABS SC23B mirror committee chairman

“It was seen as a fantastic opportunity for the country to be at the forefront of this ‘worldwide’ plug and socket configuration and to be the first country to adopt it.”

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