Extension cords help keep homes, offices, and even job sites running. However, while electrical cords are designed with safety in mind, the reality is that they can pose a danger when they are misused.
It is easy to make mistakes when utilizing electrical cords. From placing a cord that creates a tripping hazard to overloading an extension cord, you need to avoid many dangers with electrical cords. Unfortunately, not taking electrical cord safety seriously can post a major risk.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home electrical fires account for around 51,000 fires each year in North America. A big part of avoiding this danger is to ensure you are always practicing utmost safety when using electrical cords around the home or office. Not only can electrical cords pose a fire risk, but they can also be a shock hazard when used improperly. So before you grab your extension cords for your next project, or you set up a power strip in your home office, check out the following tips on keeping safe.
Know How to Use Extension Cords Safely
Perhaps one of the most common electrical cords used around homes, offices, and job sites is the extension cord. When used properly, this cord makes it possible to bring electricity to locations where a plug is not handy. However, when used the wrong way, these cords are a serious hazard.
Never Use in Place of Wiring
A common mistake when using an extension cord is to treat it like a replacement for permanent wiring. However, extension cords are meant for temporary use. Think of it this way. Is the extension cord being utilized in the same location to power the same items for more than two weeks straight? If so, this will create an electrical hazard.
Do NOT Overload
Another common misuse of extension cords is overloading them. These cords are only intended to have a certain amount of electricity drawn through them. When you overload an extension cord, it can overheat and short out.
Check your extension cord for its max number of amps. Make sure you never exceed that in use.
Use the Right Cords in the Right Place
Not all extension cords are designed for the same thing. For example, if indoor extension cords are used outside, they can become a huge electrical hazard. These cords are not designed to hold up against the elements, which can lead to the cord becoming weak and damaged. Eventually, this can lead to overheating and a potential fire hazard.
Always ensure that any electrical cord used outside is designed for outdoor use. Additionally, don’t run extension cords through windows and doorways. The pinching can lead to the cord weakening, putting it at a higher risk for overheating.
Retire Cords When It’s Time
A big danger when using any electrical cord is not retiring it when it’s old and damaged. Continuing to use a cord with exposed wiring or other damages is a huge fire risk. Dispose of cords when they show any signs of damage.
Say “NO!” to Tripping Hazards and Other Dangers
Beyond just being an electrical hazard, these cords can also become a tripping hazard and post other risks. Check out the following tips for preventing these additional risks:
- Do not put cords in walkways. This can cause tripping.
- Never put a cord under a rug as a solution to the tripping hazard. The cord can overheat and cause a fire.
- Do not leave electrical cords draped in areas where they might be pulled down and tripped over.
- Never attached cords to a surface, such as a ceiling, with nails or staples. Any puncture to the cord insulation can lead to a fire hazard or can even shock the person hanging it.
Additional Electrical Cord DON'Ts!
In addition to the above information outlining common risks with electrical and extension cords, the following are also some quick don’ts for working with electrical cords of any kind.
- Do not plug in an electrical cord with wet hands. Dry them thoroughly prior to touching an electrical cord.
- Do not use an electrical cord as a rope.
- Do not use an electrical cord with a damaged or missing ground prong.
- Do not jerk plugs out of wall sockets by grabbing onto the cord. Always grab the plug from the base and remove.
- Do not connect power strips together in a row.
- Do not connect extension cords together; get the right length for the job at hand.
- Do not utilize an electrical cord that is hot to the touch when in use.
A little common sense goes a long way with electrical cord safety. Additionally, you will lower your risk if you always having the right cords on hand for the job at hand. Stay safe and keep a healthy respect for any electrical cord you use.
While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.