This isn't about any work I'm doing, but just out of interest. I noticed that at my University, some standard mains power sockets at desk height had been mounted upside-down, because there was not enough space to plug in a plug and have room for the cable if they were mounted the right way up, since the desk was in the way.

Is this acceptable or did this violate some standards? I would check myself but it seems to be rather difficult to get a copy of them without paying money.

  • My understanding is that some electricians actually think that ground at the top is safer, though the argument I've heard doesn't convince me.... As far as I know, code doesn't care. (You can mount outlets sideways too; that was often done when installing outlets in baseboards.) – keshlam Dec 9 '16 at 21:55
  • Switch on-off orientation would be wrong. – RedGrittyBrick Dec 9 '16 at 23:16
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    I'm not putting this as an answer because it's just my opinion, but in the UK, I don't think it matters, practically. Unlike US-style plugs, the prongs/forks on UK plugs are insulated so that the conductors are never exposed while it's plugged in. And anything that's plugged in will be sitting on the counter, so the cord won't get pulled out. Even so, in the US/Canada, outlets are usually installed with the ground hole on the bottom despite the increased risk of accidentally touching a hot prong (if it's only plugged in part way) because all right-angle plugs are designed that way. – user48010 Dec 10 '16 at 0:15
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    In the US, the traditional installation orientation was to put the ground conductor below the hot/common, creating a "face". Outlets that are switched are often installed "upside down" to call attention to themselves. However, there was/is a push by a small contingent of "helicopter parents" to change to code to require all outlets be installed with the ground conductor on top so that the outlet does not resemble a "face" - they believe the "face" entices young children to play with the outlet and get electrocuted. Since US code allows for any orientation, including horizontal, the same re – user3481644 Dec 28 '16 at 15:12
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    FWIW, I usually install mine ground up and the office building I'm sitting in c. 2007 has them installed this way. I've seen metal cover plates come loose and short the top two prongs on a US outlet. – uSlackr Dec 28 '16 at 22:34

The answer is that there is no specific regulation within BS7671 which is the British Standard for wiring regulations that specifies the orientation of the sockets. The reg that governs socket positions is 553.01.06. It states

A socket-outlet on a wall or similar structure shall be mounted at a height above the floor or any working surface to minimize the risk of mechanical damage to the socket outlet or to an associated plug and its flexible cord which might be caused during insertion, use or withdrawal of the plug.

It could be argued that fitting a socket upside down will cause the cord to double back on itself. However, Since it is mechanically clamped inside the plug its hardly a valid reason. The one item that could make it non compliant is dependent on its rated testing. If the electrical/fire testing for certification prior to been sold of the device for operation was never done in that orientation the thermal/electrical/fault ratings might not be relevant. There maybe a case to be made on its IP rating due to its reversed position but again its a very thin argument. These are all speculative ideas as pointed out the regs do not forbid it.

The reality is that it is acceptable but not good practise.

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    In Czech Republic the outlets have to be oriented either flat or with the ground pin being the lowest so that it gets connected first in case of flood. I'm surprised this isn't an international occurrence. – John Dvorak Dec 28 '16 at 22:44
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    One thing you learn after a while is that every country has it's weird quirks which they think of as super-important but noone else cares about. – Peter Green Jul 19 '17 at 18:25

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