Extension cords are a necessary evil in many workplaces. They can power tools, appliances, and other devices on the job site. However, it is important to use them safely and efficiently. This blog post will discuss some safe work practices when using extension cords.
Portable Tool Use with Extension Cords
In construction, extension cords suffer a lot of wear and tear. The damage is often only to the insulation, exposing energized conductors. When a person handling the damaged cord contacts the exposed wires while holding a metal tool case or contacting a conductive surface, serious electrical shock can result, causing a fall, physical injury, or death.
Repairing Extension Cords
When a worker at a construction site inspects an extension cord and determines that it needs to be repaired, who can repair it? Anyone qualified can repair damaged electrical cords, but in most cases, the best practice is to discard the cord. The worker must not be a licensed electrician to repair a typical extension cord.
However, he or she must have the knowledge and skills to repair the cord correctly, understand the hazards involved in making the repair, and be able to describe what could happen if the repair is done wrong. The employer is responsible for determining if the person is qualified. The basis for the determination is normally from the electrical industry perspective. (Source: OR-OSHA).
Extension Cord Safety Tips
Using extension cords properly is critical to your safety. With continuous use over time, an extension cord can rapidly deteriorate, creating a potentially dangerous electric shock or fire hazard. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers the following tips for staying safe from electric shock and electrical fires:
- Do not overload extension cords or allow them to run through water or snow on the ground.
- Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
- Do not run through walls, doorways, ceilings, or floors. If a cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
- Do not use an extension cord for more than one appliance.
- Heavy reliance on extension cords indicates that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed where you need them?
- Multiple plug outlets must be plugged directly into mounted electrical receptacles; they cannot be chained together.
- Ensure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products to be plugged in and marked for indoor or outdoor use.
- The appliance or tool you use the cord with will have a wattage rating. Match this up with your extension cord, and do not use a lower-rating cord.
- Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn.
- Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots for the plug. Do not cut off the ground pin to force a fit. This defeats the purpose of a three-prong plug and could lead to an electrical shock. Never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn’t fit.
- Use extension cords with polarized and/or three-prong plugs.
- Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).