sans 164-1

Facebook / Dan Erickson

SA’s three-pronged plug: Four reasons why you need to avoid it

The SANS 164-1 three-pronged plug system has been responsible for countless fires and electrocutions.

sans 164-1

Facebook / Dan Erickson

You may not have known this but the SANS 164-1 is the three-pronged plug and socket-outlet that we have been using in our households for more than 60 years.

Because of the dangers it presents, the SANS 164-1 is regarded as one of the worst electricity systems in the world.

Although deaths by electrocution have been scarce, it is still alarming to note that per year, an average of 30 deaths by low-voltage electrocution are recorded in Gauteng alone.

This is according to a 2009 study that was led by Ryan Blumenthal of the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Pretoria.

South Africa, as a compulsory measure, has adopted a new plug and socket system – the SANS 164-2.

SANS 164-2 plug / Business Insider

According to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), the three-pronged plug socket is notoriously dangerous and is the main culprit for countless fires and electrocutions.

Willa Breed, SABS’ Electrotechnical Standards Manager, explained that

“[the SANS 164-2] will be the preferred configuration for wall socket outlets in all new installations. The idea is to eventually phase it out, but it is expected to be over a very long period of time.”

We can, as of now, refer to the SANS 164-1 as the old plug system, and these are the problems it has had for all of these years.

The lethal large, open socket holes

Bjorn Buyst, the head of marketing at SABS, expressed his concern with how dangerous the SANS 164-1 plug system is. One of its main dangerous, according to Buyst, is the size of its socket holes.

“Kids like to fiddle with the pin holes of the three-pronged plug socket outlet as well as conductive objects; if they are not under supervision they can be electrocuted.” Buyst added.

Whether or not the child would be electrocuted by inserting their finger in a three-pronged socket hole depends on whether the outlet is grounded or not.

Nonetheless, the danger remains there. Children will always be curious and those socket holes are responsible for many cases of fire and electrocutions so rather be safe than sorry.

SANS 164-1 plug pins are often not insulated

It was found that many of the three-pronged plug systems that were being sold to the public were not insulated. Generally, the plug pins are meant to be half-insulated to protect humans from touching the conductive parts of the plug when removing it from the socket-outlet.

“On the market, there are some of the three-pronged (SANS 164-1) plug with the pins that are not half insulated. They put end-users in danger of being electrocuted.” Buyst added.

Switch system is treacherous

Buyst has indicated that the switch system of the SANS 164-1 plug system is dangerous and that South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that still used this system.

When we switch off the plug system, according to Buyst, we are only deactivating one of the conductors.

He added that

“if you think you are going to protect your appliance by switching off the switch on a socket-outlet during a lightning storm you are wasting your time. The best way to protect against lightning is to remove the plug. That truly isolates the appliance from the supply.”

SANS 164-1 is not compatible with any other plugs

Although the country is slowly moving towards a new plug system, it is still one of the few places you will find the large three-pronged sockets. India also used this system but has since abandoned it.

No other plug system in the world is compatible with the SANS 164-1, which according to Buyst, is an inherent safety issue.

“South Africans had to purchase those hideous adaptors and plugs, which in themselves are very dangerous,” Buyst added.