Electrical Safety

3 prong adapter plugs banned for sale in Nova Scotia : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Building and Equipment Safety

Open Letter

From: David MacLeod,C.E.I.,P.Eng.
Provincial Chief Electrical Inspector

Date: June 7 , 2005

For many years there have been adapter plugs for sale, mostly in the discount stores, that allow 3 prong (grounded) plugs to used with 2 prong (ungrounded) receptacles. These are sometimes called “ cheater plugs ” . They are commonly used in homes with older 2 prong (2 wire) receptacles.

Some adapter plugs for sale have no approval marks or labels such as CSA or cUL directly on the device. Recently there have been devices that have a cUL approval on the item ,which for most electrical items would be acceptable.

It should be noted that for all electrical devices the approval label or mark must be directly on the device, not just the package.

The cUL approval mark with the small “c ” indicates that the device complies with the applicable Canadian standard. UL by itself is approved for the United States only. Any electrical device for sale in Canada requires the small “c” next to the UL.

The Canadian standard CSA C22.2-42-99- General Use Receptacles, Attachment Plugs and Similar Wiring Devices is the standard for which these types of devices would be required to meet in order to be approved for Canada.

Section 4.4 -Adapters and Current Taps, clause 4.4.2 of the above standard indicates that 2-wire to 3-wire adapters are not acceptable.

Therefore these adapter plugs are not approved for use in Canada.

The cUL approval label in this case has been misapplied and the device should never have any acceptable Canadian label or mark on the device applied in the first place.

Therefore 3 prong adapter plugs are banned effectively immediately from being sold in Nova Scotia even if they bear what appears to be an acceptable approval mark or label on the device.

Consumers should realize that these adapter plugs provide no effective bonding (grounding) of an electrical device that has a 3 prong plug and may cause a fire or shock hazard in the event the electrical device is defective or fails.

Almost all 2 prong receptacles, unless recently rewired ,are not properly bonded. Connecting the tab of the adapter plug to the screw of the receptacle does not provide any safety features against shock and such an installation may damage sensitive electronic equipment where a ground connection is required.

In order to provide some safety against shock, where older 2 wire receptacles exist, it is recommended to have an electrician install a 3 prong ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle to replace the existing 2 prong receptacle and reuse the existing 2 wire installation.

To provide the proper type of installation per the electrical code and where sensitive electronic equipment must have a ground connection the electrician should install a new 3 wire feed which has the required bond (ground) wire and new 3 prong receptacles as required.

Consumers should never remove the ground pin of a plug in order to have it fit into a 2 prong receptacle as this may create a shock or fire hazard.

Below are some examples of these adapter plugs.

adapter plugs - front
adapter plugs - back

adapter plugs - bottom
adapter plugs - side

The grey one is an all rubber type design and the white one lighter and more of plastic type design. They may sold by many different manufacturers under many different names and there may be others out there with slightly different design and with different approval labels or marks but in all cases they are banned for sale in Nova Scotia.

For more information on acceptable approvals of electrical equipment refer to Electrical Bulletin 2003-04.

Any one having any questions regarding these can contact the Provincial Chief Electrical Inspector at 902-424-8018.