All workplaces have electrical cords that either power up tools, equipment, or other devices such as a refrigerator or portable heater.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half of the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions or sprains from people tripping over extension cords.
CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage and/or misuse of extension cords.
Some tips for use of extension cords:
- Always inspect the cord prior to use to ensure the insulation isn't cut or damaged. Discard damaged cords, cords that become hot, or cords with exposed wiring.
- Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.
- Use only approved extension cords for commercial use. Home extension cords must not be used as they are not designed for the job-site or hard service usage.
- Do not use extension cords in place of permanent wiring.
- Do not remove the prongs of an electrical plug. If plug prongs are missing, loose, or bent, replace the entire plug.
- Do not use an adapter or extension cord to defeat a standard grounding device (e.g., Only place three-prong plugs in three-prong outlets; do not alter the cord end to fit in a two-prong outlet).
- Use extension cords that are the correct size or rating for the equipment in use. The diameter of the extension cord should be the same or greater than the cord of the equipment in use.
- Only use cords rated for outdoor use when using a cord outside.
- Do not run cords above ceiling tiles or through walls.
- Keep electrical cords away from areas where they may be pinched and areas where they may pose a tripping or fire hazard (e.g., doorways, walkways, under carpet, etc.).
- Never hang an extension cord using nails or other conductive objects.
- Cords passing through bushings, floor penetrations need to be protected from cuts and abrasion.
- Never unplug an extension cord by pulling on the cord; pull on the plug.
- If you must run a cord across a road or area where equipment or vehicle traffic moves, then protect the cord with the appropriate system to keep the cord from being damaged. It is best not to run cords across a path where equipment or vehicles travel. Avoid this when possible.
- Sometimes this may not be possible, but keep extension cords out of wet conditions. Make sure if you need to work in damp conditions the cord is plugged into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).
- Finally - always inspect an extension cord before use.
Many of these safety points on electrical extension cord safety are required by the regulatory industry (LNI-DOSH) and your company’s safety and health policies.
Also, electrical cord injuries can and do happen at home. Apply these same safety tips at home and educate your family with extension cord safety, taking safety home.
Let’s be safe out there!
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