The standard UK plug is like no other in the world; it has three chunky, metal pins when most others just have two, and the plug in the main is bigger than elsewhere in the world – how can they get their electricity on such a smaller unit than us?
Well, in fact, the UK plug may be bigger but it is designed that way on purpose to be safer than any other plug in the world.
It’s bigger than in other countries on purpose; the designer didn’t do that to annoy or frustrate – its size makes it safer, how?
The pins: The design of the UK plug is intended to massively reduce the risk of an accidental electric shock; for example, half of each of the live and neutral pins is covered in insulation – the bit you might touch when plugging in or pulling a plug out.
The socket it plugs in to: It is very easy to access the mains electric in other countries by forcing a pointy metal object into the holes, but in the UK it actually takes a tremendous amount of skill and know-how to do the same. The UK plug is designed so that the ‘earth pin’ (the one at the top on its own) is slightly longer than the other two, so that it can ‘unlock’ the socket. Until that earth pin is pushed in the live and neutral don’t have connection to their terminals, meaning by this point the earth (safety) grounding is already connected, making it safe for the user, so if they accidentally touch the other pins, they will be protected by the earth connection and the insulation. Some old plugs actually don’t have insulation, although there are not many about now as they’ve not been manufactured since 1984! If you come across one of these it definitely needs changing.
The fuse inside: Fuses have been in UK plugs since World War 2; if there is an unexpected electrical surge, the fuse in the plug will blow cutting off the electricity supply. This prevents fires, electric shock and other accidents. The fuse is intended to protect the cable feeding the appliance. The benefit of a fuse is it makes a plug (or even appliance) very easy to repair – in most cases, when an appliance stops working, checking to see if the fuse has blown should be the first port of call.
The Plug wiring: Let’s not forget the wiring inside the plug itself. The wiring has been very cleverly designed; if the cable is pulled too hard, and the wiring frays, it’s the live and neutral wires that disconnect first, whilst the earth wire (the one that prevents us getting a shock) is the last to disconnect.
It is without doubt that UK plug wiring, the UK plug is a brilliant design, and does keep millions of British users safe every day.
However, it is important that these users ensure that..
- The plug is wired up correctly & secure
- The fuse in it is correct
- The plug is not damaged in any way
And it is not on the floor upturned, as that really hurts if you stand on it!
It’s a truly brilliant design. The only caveat is that, as with Lego, the rugged, bottom-heavy design of a U.K. plug makes it an almost scientifically perfect caltrop.