• Deen Gabriel

New safety symbol required for South African plugs – Here is what it means

The South African Bureau of Standards has updated the general requirements for plug and socket systems, which will result in changes to electrical socket outlets and adaptors.

A recent update to SANS 164-0 has introduced several changes to South Africa’s electrical plug and socket standards.

“SANS 164-0 covers general requirements for plugs and socket-outlets and should be considered as the base document for all the plugs and socket-outlets systems in South Africa,” said Sadhvir Bissoon, the executive of standards at the SABS.

Bissoon emphasised that SANS 164-0 is not a new standard.

“The standard has been around since the country moved away from the flat-pins configuration which was in accordance with British standards,” stated Bissoon. The standard has now been amended to clarify some of the requirements.”

Notice that the standard was going to be changed was given in the National Government Gazette published on 3 April. Stakeholders were given until 19 May to provide comments on the proposed changes.

These changes apply to all plugs, sockets, and other electrical equipment defined in parts 1 to 6 of SANS 164. This includes the new diamond-shaped ZA Plug that is defined in SANS 164-2.

Updates to general requirements for plugs and sockets in South Africa

Three major changes were made to SANS 164-0:

  • Reducing the minimum clearance of the socket outlet surface to 8mm (from 12mm).

  • Introducing a symbol for adaptors not permitted to be plugged into one another to avoid straining the socket-outlet.

  • Examples provided to show how multiple socket outlets for fixed installations should be switched. Since 2018, the wiring code (SANS 10142-1) requires socket outlets to integrate ZA Plug (SANS 164-2).

The introduction of a symbol for adaptors not permitted to be plugged into one another is due to the safety risk to the consumer, as the straining of the socket-outlet can cause a short-circuit between the neutral and live pins.

“This symbol has to be embossed on the adaptor to warn consumers of the danger of plugging adaptors into one another,” Bissoon said.

South African plug and socket standards — technical details

Bissoon said that the SANS 164 national standard for plug and socket systems is applied with “SANS 60884-1: Plugs and socket-outlets for household and similar purposes”.

SANS 60884-1 is an adoption of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60884-1 standard which also covers the requirements for plugs and socket-outlets.

Bissoon stated that the SANS 164 series falls under SABS Technical Committee (TC) 067 Sub-committee (SC) 03, titled “Electricity distribution systems and components: Electrical accessories”.

The scope of the committee covers standards for electrical accessories such as switches, plugs and socket-outlets, home automation devices, connectors, adaptors, couplers, cords extension sets and conduits (cable management systems) for use in household and similar low-voltage applications.

“The TC067 SC03 consists of representatives from associations, manufacturers, regulators, power utility, testing laboratories, government departments and academic institutions,” Bissoon said.

Should any member of the public be interested in joining the sub-committee, they are welcome to submit their interest via the SABS website.


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