Hazardous multi-plug on the way out

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By 2018-01-22

By Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya

You surely did shake the wire of your phone charger this morning since it did not connect the first time. Didn't you? How inconvenient it is for you to use different types of substandard electrical plugs and socket outlets. Hasn't it been a nuisance for the past so many years?

Do you know that there are 15 different types of plugs and three types of socket outlets presently in use in Sri Lanka? OMG! Yes, fifteen plus three, giving one multiple possible combinations.

When you want to use a particular electrical appliance, you are instantly disappointed, because, the plug in the appliance does not match with the socket outlet on the wall. You have only two options to solve your problem. The first option is to buy some gadget which can adapt your plug to the socket outlet and make the connection in an very unsafe manner; or the second option is to remove or either snip-off the wires from the plug and insert only the two wires into the socket holes and make the connection.

You may have seen electricians; tile layers or such workers who come to your home make such unsafe joints and connections. When your children see that, they may also use the same method to supply electricity to the decorative bulbs during Vesak and Christmas. God save them!

OMG, you would say. "How do I know whether the electrical appliance that I buy from the shop has a standardised plug? I have installed SLS marked 5 ampere socket outlets at home. But, my phone charger, TV, fan and everything come with a 2 pin plug. How can I connect the two-pin plug to the so called SLS marked socket outlet?"

I know that it is unsafe. But I'm helpless. A multi-plug I can buy for about Rs 200 would do that job for me. Now I can plug the TV, phone charger and anything to the multi-plug. Any type of plug can be plugged into a multi-plug. Of course, sometimes you hear a popping sound, hissing sound, and see a little electric spark. Shake the wire a little bit, and it would stop. Job done!!!
No. It's not, but then the consumer has no other option either.

Now, the process to stop all such bad practices has begun. In August 2016, the Government decided to establish a single standard for plugs and socket outlets used in Sri Lanka. The rectangular pin 13 ampere plug and socket outlet, both of which are already widely used, would be the only standard allowed in the future. Accordingly, the transition from 15 different types of plugs and 3 types of socket outlets to the 13 ampere square pin plug and socket outlet has already begun. Gazette notifications required for the transition have already been published.

Transition to 13 amp sockets in force

New wiring MUST use 13 ampere sockets: It is prohibited to use socket outlets other than 13 ampere socket outlets conforming to the SLS standard for building installations (wiring), from August 2016 onwards (Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka)
Import of non-standards plugs, sockets prohibited: It is prohibited to import plugs, and socket outlets other than 13 ampere plugs and socket outlets conforming to SLS standard from August 2017. (Gazette of extraordinary No. 2032/10 – Tuesday, August 15, 2017)

Import of multi-plugs, extension cords prohibited: It is prohibited to import adaptors (also called multi-plugs) and extension cords unless they conform to the SLS standard from August 2017. (Gazette of extraordinary No. 2032/10 – Tuesday, August 15, 2017)
From 2019, sale of non-standard items prohibited: It is prohibited to sell plugs, socket outlets, adaptors, and extension cords unless they conform to the SLS standard from January 2019. (Gazette of extraordinary No. 2048/39 – Thursday, December 07, 2017)

From 2019, sale of appliances to be only with 13 ampere plugs: It is prohibited to sell electrical appliances with plugs other than SLS standardised 13 ampere plug from January 2019. (Gazette of extraordinary No. 2048/39 – Thursday, December 07, 2017)
Therefore, through this smooth transition process, there will only be a single type of plug and socket outlet for sale in the market from January 2019. A single type of plug will be attached to all appliances you buy after January 2019. It will have a good connection with the socket outlet, and will not heat up like before. It is conforming to the world standards as well.

A single type of plug and socket outlet will be there throughout the country. From house to house, house to office or to temple, from carpentry shop to the house where the carpenter repairs the roof, from the Ministry to the President's office, whatever appliance you take, there will be a single type of plug and socket outlet.

There may be minor difficulties for a short period. When you buy a new appliance, it will have a 13 ampere plug with rectangular pins, whereas in your home, you still have 5 ampere round pin socket outlets. You are allowed to have the good old 5 ampere round pin on the wall as long as it lasts.

Multi-plugs on the way out

Multi-plug, which you think is your saviour here (but is not), will gradually vanish from the market. When your multi-plug which you use now breaks down, you will have to buy a one-to-one adaptor (only a single plug, either 5 ampere round pin or 13 ampere rectangular pin can be inserted, can be connected to the 5 ampere or 13 ampere socket outlet at your home) which conforms to the SLS standard, and would be significantly safer.

What would happen if the 5 ampere round pin socket outlet at your home shatters and falls off? Only 13 ampere socket outlets will be available in the electrical shop, and you'll have to use that. Therefore, gradually, all the socket outlets at your home will be standard 13 ampere square pin socket outlets one day. When you'd be renovating the electrical wiring system of your home, you would change all the socket outlets to the standard 13 ampere socket outlets conforming to the SLS standard. By that day, your home will be 100% conforming to the new standard and you'd be able to live in a safer world, one major electrical hazard eliminated. Substandard sockets, plugs and 'multi-plugs' are estimated to cause about 50 deaths every year in Sri Lanka. Would you not like to say, 'Ages ago we had poor quality thing called a multi-socket'?

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