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We use extension cords all the time at home and at work. They are extremely useful and are helpful in solving a lot of problems, but they also pose the threat of a fire hazard or shock hazard if you do not use them correctly. They can also become a problem if they have worn out over time. Extension cord safety is not something a lot of people think about, but its importance cannot be understated. If you are working with an improperly working extension cord, you could start a fire in the workplace, or worse, you could electrocute and kill yourself. Luckily, there are measures you can take to prevent against instances such as these and we are here today to walk you through these measures.
The first thing you’ll want to understand is that there are different types of extension cords. If you are operating on a small appliance or two, you will want to use a two-wire extension cord. Two-wire extension cords can only be used for one or two appliances, no more! If you’re working with power tools or outdoor appliances, you will want to use a three-wire cord. The third wire on a three-wire extension cord should ALWAYS be plugged into a grounded electrical outlet. This is the ground wire and is designed to be a ground cord. These should be used with power tools unless the power tool happens to be double insulated.
When in the workplace, you will probably be required to use specific extension cords that are approved by the National Electric Code for hard or extra hard usage. These cords are usually marked with the letters “WA” or the word “Outdoor” on the jacket of the cord. Make sure you are using the correct extension cord! If you don’t, you are asking for an accident to happen.
Along with choosing the correct cord, you will also have to regularly inspect and maintain the cords you are using. These inspections should look for wear and tear, deterioration, and any type of damage. You will also want to make it a habit to remove the extension cord from its outlet, do NOT pull the extension cord by the actual cord when removing it from the outlet. Extension cords should also be kept from running underneath any furniture or rugs and should never be strung through doorways, walkways, windows, or along walls, ceilings, or floors. If you identify any type of damage on the cord, you will need to dispose of it and replace it immediately.
Never, ever use an extension cord as a substitute for permanent wiring. This includes securing the cord to a building or structure. The staples at your hardware store should not be used for extension cords even though they may be advertised for that purpose. Whenever you are using a cord, you want to use ONE cord. Do NOT plug two cords together to make a single long cord. If you are having a problem reaching the area in which you will be working, get a longer extension cord for the job. If you connect two extension cords together, you will reduce the operating voltage and efficiency of the tools and appliances you will be using and you could even cause motor damage.
Extension cords, like a lot of other tools in the workplace, are often taken for granted and people do not fully comprehend the problems they could cause if they use them incorrectly. Make sure you are regularly checking and inspecting your extension cords and practice good housekeeping to ensure good extension cord safety. The difference between good extension cord practices and bad extension cord practices is bigger than you think.