Power and Extension Cord Safety
Power and extension cord safety moment.
"As a single Mom I have had to become a do-it-yourself handy person but not by choice. While I take great pride in being able to tackle most minor repairs myself, electrical needs are certainly not my area of expertise. Recently I had purchased a beautiful but old lamp at a garage sale, that had been modified with an adapter which allowed me to use a large wattage light bulb. What I didn’t realize is that the cord powering this lamp was not capable of handling this and it soon became quite hot. I only discovered this accidentally when lifting the cord to clean underneath it. Needless to say the lamp is no longer part of my household, and I still shudder when I think about the potential fire danger that had been created. I now make it a point to periodically examine all of the electrical cords used throughout my home."
All too often we take dangers related to common household items for granted. Or we try to cut corners to save a few dollars, which ends up putting us at risk. A classic example of this is the overload of a power supply by using a bunch of extension cords.
Electrical cord safety has to be the first priority when it comes to electrical cords.
Purchasing Extension Cords
Bargain shopping should not include items such as extension cords. We often assume that if they are available for sale, then they must be safe, but this is not always the case. Plus, many people shop online for items such as this and they may not meet the appropriate safety standards. Don’t just assume that they are safe or adhere to safety standards, but know what to look for on labels, like UL or CSA, which prove they have been inspected for safety.
Extension cords that do not meet safety standards can be comprised with inadequate insulation, which means they might become too hot even when they are only used for light electrical loads. Even though they may appear to have a grounding prong, upon closer inspection you may discover that the prong is not even attached to any of the other components.
- Only plan on using extension cords for temporary use. They have not been designed as a permanent electrical cord
- Make sure that you store cords properly after each use
- Inspect the cord thoroughly for any splits or exposed wires. If they feel hot to the touch, then they are being used beyond their capacity or are faulty. Be sure to tag faulty or compromised cords. For more information on this process, check out Understanding Lockout/Tagout Safety
- Do not use extension cords by running them through enclosed walls or ceilings. The risk is they can overheat and could ignite a fire. For the same reason, do not bury them under carpets or rugs
- Extension cords should never be used where there is a lot of traffic or in walking areas, as they could easily cause an individual to trip
- Never attempt to nail or staple your extension cord to a hard surface, as these could damage the cord and create a fire or shock hazard from the exposed wires
- Make sure you use your extension cord in the proper manner. Don’t overload it beyond what it is has been approved for, and make sure that it is fully plugged into the receptacle so that none of the prongs are left exposed
- Don’t overload your extension cord, know what it’s limitations are
- Don’t assume that because the items being supplied by the power cords in your home are working properly, that the power cord is safe and in good condition. There could be unseen dangers that you are not aware of
- Make it a habit to periodically inspect all of the power cords within your home
- Check for frays along the length of the cord
- Make sure that the head of the plug has not become frayed from wear and tear
- Don’t create a weakness or damage to your power cords by pulling them out of the electrical sockets improperly, or by yanking them out, as opposed to removing them from the socket by hand
- Don’t cut off the third prong, as it is this prong that is the grounding prong. If it doesn't fit into the socket, use a different socket or a different cord
- Make sure that the cords do in fact have a grounding prong to them. This is especially important for your appliances
- If you are buying a second hand electrical item, inspect the cord properly and make sure it has the safety seals attached to it
- Don’t cramp them too tightly into a space, as eventually this could damage their insulation qualities, making them unsafe
Many accidents occur because individuals trip over exposed cords. There have also been several incidents where children have pulled objects onto themselves by yanking on cords.
- Make sure you keep the cord as short as possible by using proper bundling devices to handle the excess
- Keep the cords safely behind objects. This minimizes the risk of children pulling cords and objects onto themselves
- Don’t leave electrical cords laying around where a child could use them for play
Proper care of your electrical cords will reduce the risk of damage to cords that could lead to unsafe use. Make sure you coil it up loosely, and that it is stored in a dry place.
Written by Safeopedia Staff
At Safeopedia, we think safety professionals are unsung superheroes in many workplaces. We aim to support and celebrate these professionals and the work they do by providing easy access to occupational health and safety information, and by reinforcing safe work practices.