Pull the Plug

A common tool we use in the field, in the shop, and the office is an extension cord. We need to consider the potential for issues coming from the use of extension cords before we plug up one and go about our way with the task at hand.  The most important thing to remember is that extension cords are for temporary use only. Permanent wiring is to be installed when the application is no longer temporary. 

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About 4,000 extension cord-related injuries are treated in hospitals each year, about 50 of which result in death. Half of the reported injuries are lacerations, contusions, sprains, etc., from people tripping over extension cords. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2014, electrical fires accounted for 6.3% - nearly 24,000 fires - of all residential fires, 11% of the fires where someone died, and 7% where someone was injured. And the months that see the greatest percentage of these fires...December and January. 

Some best management practices when using extension cords:  

  • Inspect an extension cord for damage before use.

  • Check the wattage rating on the appliance or tool that the extension cord will be used with; do not use an extension cord that has a lower rating.

  • Make sure all equipment and extension cords bear the mark of an independent testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories).

  • Make sure the plug on an extension cord is fully inserted into the outlet.

  • Replace an outlet if a plug is too loose in the outlet.

  • Match up the plug and extension cord on a polarized cord (one hole on the plug is larger than the other). Always use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection when using extension cords in wet or damp environments

  • Keep extension cords away from children and animals.

  • Pull on the plug, not the cord when removing an extension cord from the outlet.

  • Store extension cords indoors.

  • Unplug extension cords when not in use.

  • Allow slack in extension cords to prevent tension on electrical terminals.

  • Put safety covers on the unused receptacle outlets on extension cords.

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Ensure you do not make these common mistakes when using extension cords: 

  • Don’t use an extension cord marked for indoor use outdoors.

  • Don’t plug one extension cord into another.

  • Don’t overload cords with more than the proper electrical load.

  • Don’t run extension cords through doorways, holes in ceilings, walls, or floors.

  • Don’t move, bend, or modify any of the metal parts of the extension cord plug.

  • Don’t plug a three-prong into a two-hole extension cord.

  • Don’t force a plug into an outlet.

  • Don’t use an extension cord when it is wet.

  • Don’t overheat an extension cord.

  • Don’t cover an extension cord with anything.

  • Don’t drive over an extension cord.

  • Don’t drag an extension cord.

  • Don’t attach extension cords to the wall with nails or staples.

  • Don’t run extension cords under rugs or carpets.

    Sources used for this bulletin were:  Naval Safety Center, Texas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., National Electrical Safe-ty Foundation, Electrical Safety Foundation International and the Texas Department of Insurance. 


Learn more - including the fourth quarter’s inspection color - in this edition of Wachs Weekly!