Choose and use extension cords safely

Choose and use extension cords safely

Have you ever tried to use an electronic device only to find out the cord is too short to reach the outlet?

Extension cords are useful for their practical, cost-effective solutions to this problem. But if used improperly, they  can cause fire and injury, even resulting in death.

Extension cords are designed for temporary use but shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution. An electrician can install the necessary wiring and receptacle outlets for a permanent solution.

About 4,000 injuries associated with extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. About half result from people tripping over the cords.
 
Thirteen percent of the injuries involve children under five years of age. Electrical burns to the mouth account for half the injuries to young children.
 
The CPSC also estimates that 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing about 50 people and injuring another 270. 
 
The Safe Electricity program offers these safety tips for the use of extension cords:
  • Occasionally check the condition of extension cords and replace any damaged cords. Look for fraying or cracking and damage to the plug or sockets. Cords used outdoors should be checked more frequently because of the constant wear and tear.
  • Provide some slack to prevent tension on the cord.
  • Never remove the grounding pin (or third prong) from an extension cord to make it fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • Do not overload cords with lots of electronics or power tools. It may cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
  • Extension cords always conduct electricity when plugged into an outlet, even if not in use. Remember to unplug them when finished using.
  • If any part of the extension cord becomes hot while in use, unplug it immediately and discard it.
  • Keep extension cords away from children, pets, and high-traffic areas.
  • Do not place extension cords under carpets, rugs, furniture, or cover with any other objects.
  • When using tools and appliances outside, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.
  • Do not use cords outside in wet conditions. Water conducts electricity, and working in wet conditions increases the chance of shock or electrocution.
For more information on safety topics, visit Safe Electricity's website.
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