Extension Cord Safety Tips

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Extension cords are flexible electrical power cables that come in specific lengths and thicknesses to provide power from an outlet or other power source to an appliance. "Household" extension cords range from short sections to 12-foot, or longer, cords. Thick "heavy duty" extension cords carry the highest amount of electricity, are often yellow or orange, and have grounded, three-prong plug ends. Using the wrong extension cord, or using one incorrectly, creates the risk of trips, falls, shock, fire, electrocution and blown fuses.

Avoiding Trips and Falls

  • Select the correct length extension cord for the application; surplus extension cord creates a tripping hazard. Try not to drape extension cords across table tops, counters or wall hangings. Loop and tie extension cords when not in use. Avoid running extension cords under rugs and carpet. This creates an unsafe floor condition and can cause extension cord wear that leads to shock.

Avoiding Electric Hazard

  • Use the extension cord weight appropriate to the job. Check for a hot cord during use, which indicates an electrical overload, and the need for a heavier extension cord. Do not let extension cords become tangled, twisted or kinked, which can cause the electric wire inside the cord to break and cause an electrical short. Wet conditions or wet extension cords increase the risk of electric shock; keep extension cords dry and use only in areas away from water. Do not nail, screw or staple through an extension cord; secure with plastic ties or electric tape. Avoid driving over extension cords with lawn equipment or automobiles. Keep power tools away from extension cords: follow safe cutting procedures with any tool connected to an extension cord.

Safety Maintenance

  • Inspect extension cords regularly for damage. Crushing, cuts and shorts require repair or replacement, as do broken male or female plug ends. Hang extension cords when not in use. Keep extension cords dry, out of wet areas and not exposed to the elements. Maintain extension cords grease- and dirt-free. After use, wipe with a cloth dipped in a cleaning agent with the cord unplugged. An extension cord is only designed to supply electricity from an outlet to a device. Do not use extension cords to hang other materials, tie objects, pull loads, bind items together or hoist articles.

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