Extension cords are such a common item in the workplace and the home that many people take them for granted and fail to realize that they can be hazardous if used improperly.
Selecting the Right Extension Cord
To prevent accidents, employees must start by choosing the right extension cord for the job.
- Only extension cords with labels saying that they have been tested and approved by an independent laboratory (for example, UL) should be used.
- Extension cords are considered temporary wiring and are intended only for temporary use.
- The extension cord chosen will depend on whether it’s being used indoors or outdoors and the length needed. Don’t use indoor cords outside. Don’t plug one cord into another to make it longer, which could start a fire; use a cord of the right length.
- The choice of extension cord might also depend on conditions of use, such as whether it will be used in areas where there is moisture, heat, or chemicals. If so, select cords specially constructed to resist these conditions.
- The gauge and length of an extension cord indicate the maximum wattage of equipment the cord can power. Check the label on extension cords to determine gauge and length. The smaller the gauge, the larger the wattage of the equipment that can be used with the cord. The longer the cord, the less current the cord can carry.
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- The label on electrical equipment also provides information about the wattage rating. To determine the wattage rating, multiply amps by volts.
- If you use an extension cord with more than one piece of electrical equipment, you must choose a cord that is safe to use with the total combined wattage rating of all the equipment.
Tips for Safe Use of Extension Cords
- Inspect extension cords carefully before each use to make sure the cord and plug are in good condition.
- Insert the plug fully into the outlet and uncoil the cord to reduce the risk of overheating.
- Plug extension cords into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) when used in wet or damp areas.
- Make sure electrical equipment is turned off before you plug it into an extension cord.
- Don’t run extension cords across aisles or through doorways where they may be damaged or create tripping hazards.
- Don’t run extension cords under rugs, which could cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
- Don’t attach extension cords to floors or walls with nails or staples, which could damage insulation, expose wires, and cause an electrical shock and/or fire.
- Unplug extension cords when not in use.
- Store outdoor cords indoors when they are not being used to prevent damage.
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