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Extension Cord Safety

| Chaizong Lor

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.

Avoid Using Damaged Extension Cords

Before using an extension cord, you’ll want to check its condition. Extension cords can receive a fair bit of damage throughout their lifespan. Exposed cords, frayed wires, or cracked plugs can cause an extension cord’s electrical flow to become uneven. This can cause a short circuit, which can trip the circuit breaker and potentially cause shock. Don’t risk using a damaged extension cord. Check each cord’s condition before use and discard any cords with noticeable damages.

Avoid Connecting Multiple Extension Cords

Multiple Extension Cord

Extension cords should never be paired together. Combining extension cords can lead to excessive voltage, as electrical resistance is lowered the more cords are combined. This can lead to an electrical overload, which trips your circuit breaker.

Speaking of tripping, multiple extension cords can also be a fall hazard. Avoid tripping your circuit breaker – and yourself by only using one extension cord at a time. Be sure to run them along walls and away from heavy traffic areas as well.

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:

Extension Cord Tripping Hazard
  • 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.

Conclusion

The best way to avoid accidents involving extension cords is by acknowledging that extension cords pose a threat. Most accidents happen because people are simply unaware of how dangerous they can be. By acknowledging the threat, you can protect yourself and your co-workers from accidents.