Everyone needs to use an extension cord from time to time. Proper use and care can help you avoid being a statistic. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that approximately 4,000 injuries per year can be attributed to extension cords and about half of those injuries are from tripping over cords. The CPSC also estimates that nearly 3,300 structure fires originate in extension cords each year. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage and misuse.
To reduce the hazards associated with extension cords, the guidelines listed below should be followed:
- Only purchase extension cords that are certified from a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
- Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances. Polarized plugs have one blade slightly wider than the other and can only be inserted one way into the connection.
- Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third prong (round or u-shaped), which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock and electrocution. Likewise, never cut off the ground pin to connect a 3-prong appliance cord to a 2-wire extension cord or receptacle.
- If an extension cord’s insulation has been damaged, throw it away. Do not try to repair a damaged extension cord with electrical tape.
- Never use multiple extension cords plugged into each other. This can cause a loose connection, overheating and arcing.
- If the cord feels hot or if there is a softening of the plastic, this indicates that the cord is drawing too much power and the plug wires or connections are failing. The extension cord should be discarded and replaced.
- Never nail down or staple an extension cord.
- When disconnecting cords, pull the plug rather than the cord itself.
- Never run extension cords through walls, under rugs, or across doorways.
- Avoid placing cords where someone could accidentally trip over them.
- Never use an extension cord while it is coiled, looped or tied in a knot.
- Never place an extension cord where it is likely to be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic.
- When extension cords are needed for high wattage appliances, such as air conditioners and freezers, use only special, heavy duty cords rated for use.
- Extension cords rated for outdoor use can be used indoors, but indoor extension cords should never be used outdoors.
Follow these safety tips to keep your home safe while utilizing the convenience of extension cords.