Whether it’s on a train, in a café or a hotel lobby – whatever the location, the number of people that want to charge their smartphone on the go is growing. In fact, our recent research found that 30% of UK adults charge their phone in a public place at least once a month, while 58% would like to see more public buildings feature USB charging outlets.

Installing USB charging outlets is not just a way to meet the ever-changing demands of the public, they can also make charging smartphones and tablets a significantly safer process.

Unaware but not immune to risk

With the rise of smartphones has also come the rise of fake or unofficial smartphone chargers. When asked in our survey, over half (57%) of the respondents were unsure or admitted to buying a cheap phone charger that was made by a different manufacturer to their phone, while 46% had purchased one from merchants like eBay or Gumtree – increasing the likelihood of it being fake.

These figures are hot on the heels of the findings reported by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) last year. CTSI found that only three out of approximately 400 fake Apple chargers were insulated well enough to protect the user from electric shock – a risk that fixed USB charging outlets can mitigate.

The safety risks associated with the use of fake or counterfeit phone chargers including electric shock, screen burns, electrical fires and power cuts are unbeknown to most. Indeed, out of those surveyed 47% did not consider electrical shock a risk when using an unsolicited charger.

Despite this, more than 100 respondents confessed that they had experienced somethingseriously dangerous when charging their phone, with people experiencing fires, smoke, sparks and burning. 

One described how they plugged in their phone charger at work and it “started to spark and make a loud noise”. When they went to check on it, the charger was black and they “could smell burning.”

usb charging safetyWhat role does the specifier play?

Clearly, there’s a need for greater public awareness of the risks associated with fake chargers if we’re to nip this growing safety concern in the bud. 

This is where the specifier comes in. Whilst it’s near impossible to stop or monitor their use in commercial buildings, especially when you consider fake chargers could be bought unknowingly, specifiers have a professional duty optimise safety by taking full advantage of the new opportunities available to them.

How do fixed USB charging outlets work?

By sourcing USB charging facilities in fixed installations, specifiers can guarantee an extra level of safety to the public using commercial buildings. Sockets with integrated USB charging outlets and intelligent mobile device charging, offer higher levels of user safety by automatically managing the charge to match the needs of the device plugged in.

This ability to manage and match the charge, will guarantee optimal charger performance regardless of mobile device brand or charger used. As well as limited risk of fire or electric shock, this means that expensive devices will not suffer component damage or screen burn.Simultaneously the charging needs of the user can be met without compromise on the speedat which their device charges.

Charger sockets that are part of the fixed installation offer a safer way to meet people’s needs but they are not currently a requirement within the IET wiring regulations. It’s for this reason that fixed USB charging outlets require a separate mention in specifications – if you don’t ask for them, you won’t get. Specifiers also need to pay attention to the exact range they sourceand dedicated fixed charging outlets will need to have intelligent mobile charging to optimise safety of users. 

Safety in new builds is a huge concern, particularly in light of recent events. Specifiers have a role to play in helping to keep buildings as safe as possible for the public using them. As people increasingly look to charge their devices away from home, USB charging outlets offer the opportunity to both meet the public’s demand and keep them safe whilst doing so. 

By Jim Hutchison, National Sales Manager, Crabtree

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