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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Electrical outlet and plug safety in SWA



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It's a must that Soldiers and civilian workers know the good, bad and ugly when it comes to electrical plugs, adapters and outlets in Southwest Asia (SWA). Injuries and damage are the result if a Soldier uses the wrong combination of plug-to-outlet.


Here are a few pointers which will help educate Soldiers and civilians who are already in SWA and those who are heading here:

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1. Know the voltage! The electrical generation here on Camp Taji conforms to the International Electrical Code, which means that outlet in your wall is providing 220 volts. If you plug in a piece of equipment designed to run at 110 volts, go ahead and order a replacement, because the one you plugged in is now fried! To run at 110, you need an adapter or transformer that "steps down" the 220V to 110V. Other installations and countries may have different combinations of voltage and outlets. It is important to check what is used at each location when you arrive.

2. There's a good chance that the outlet on your wall is designed to British Standard (BS) 1363. That means it can carry 250 volts of AC at 50 Hz. These outlets are fused at 3, 5, 10 or 13 amps.

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However, most of the equipment plugs are designed to European Standard CEE 7/7 or 7/16. This leads to a compatibility problem since the British outlet has a "safety gate" that must be triggered open by the plug before the outlet is hot. But the European plugs don't have a pole to open the gate! Forcing the plug into the outlet damages the outlet and makes it useless for different plugs and also makes it a safety hazard.

3. Adapters from the European plugs to the British outlets are available, but not all of them are created equal. Choosing the right adapter is critical.


Unlike US or British plugs, the European plugs don't have a male ground lead. The grounding on these plugs is provided by a small metal strip which must contact a corresponding ground in the adapter or outlet. If you're plugging a device into a power strip, the power strip must be properly grounded.

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4. Universal adapters for US style plugs are not universally safe or universally designed and manufactured the same. One important difference is how well the adapter stays plugged in. Make sure the plug fits snugly into the outlet. A loose fit leads to arcing and overheating.


5. Finally, I've put together a chart that shows safe and unsafe plugs, outlets and adapters I have encountered here at Taji.


William S. Shirley

RMS/AFCAP

Camp Taji, Iraq


Plug Adapter Combinations--Safe/Unsafe

Plugs
Outlet
or US (NEMA 5-15 or 1-15) Plug
Adapter

Grounded Un-grounded
(Type B, 5-15) (Type A, 1-15)

British N/A N/A
Bs 1363
Grounded
outlet

Universal to OK OK
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp grounded

Universal to UNSAFE UNSAFE
British Style Not Not
BS 1363 13 amp grounded grounded
un-grounded

European to N/A N/A
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
grounded

US/European N/A UNSAFE
combination to Not
British Style grounded
BS 1363
13 amp
un-grounded

Universal to OK OK
Round Pin
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin N/A N/A
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin UNSAFE UNSAFE
BS 546
15 amp
un-grounded

Plugs
Outlet
or European (CEE 7/7 or 7/16) Plug
Adapter

Grounded (7/7)
(Type F or Un-grounded (7/16)
E/F hybrid) (Type C)

British UNSAFE UNSAFE
Bs 1363 Not
Grounded grounded
outlet

Universal to UNSAFE OK
British Style Not
BS 1363 grounded
13 amp grounded

Universal to UNSAFE UNSAFE
British Style Not Not
BS 1363 13 amp grounded grounded
un-grounded

European to OK OK
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
grounded

US/European UNSAFE UNSAFE
combination to Not Not
British Style grounded grounded
BS 1363
13 amp
un-grounded

Universal to UNSAFE OK
Round Pin Not
BS 546 grounded
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin N/A N/A
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin UNSAFE UNSAFE
BS 546
15 amp
un-grounded

Outlet Plugs
or
Adapter British Stand (BS 1363) Plug 13 amp

Grounded Un-grounded
(Type G)

British OK OK
Bs 1363
Grounded
outlet

Universal to OK OK
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp grounded

Universal to UNSAFE UNSAFE
British Style Not Not
BS 1363 13 amp grounded grounded
un-grounded

European to N/A N/A
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
grounded

US/European N/A N/A
combination to
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
un-grounded

Universal to OK OK
Round Pin
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin N/A N/A
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin UNSAFE UNSAFE
BS 546
15 amp
un-grounded

Plugs
Outlet
or British Stand (BS 546)
Adapter Round Pin Plug 15 amp

Grounded
(Type D) Un-grounded

British N/A N/A
Bs 1363
Grounded
outlet

Universal to N/A N/A
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp grounded

Universal to N/A N/A
British Style
BS 1363 13 amp
un-grounded

European to N/A N/A
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
grounded

US/European N/A N/A
combination to
British Style
BS 1363
13 amp
un-grounded

Universal to N/A N/A
Round Pin
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin OK UNSAFE
BS 546
15 amp
grounded

Round Pin UNSAFE UNSAFE
BS 546
15 amp

un-grounded

Source Citation:Shirley, William S. "Electrical outlet and plug safety in SWA." PS, the Preventive Maintenance Monthly 681 (August 2009): 40(4). General OneFile. Gale. Alachua County Library District. 1 Sept. 2009
.




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