Extension cords are a convenient way to supply power for tools and devices on a temporary basis. They are also the leading cause of electrical fires, and can cause injury and even death if used improperly.
It is estimated that 3,000 residential fires originate from extension cords each year, and 300 people are killed or injured. More than half of the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, and sprains caused by tripping over cords. A person is electrocuted in the home every 36 hours, and electrocuted in the workplace every 24 hours. Electrocution ranks as the fourth highest cause of industrial fatalities. Deaths from 120 volts represents 12 percent of overall electrocutions.
Continued use can cause cord insulation to deteriorate rapidly, creating shock and fire hazards. Some basic extension cord safety practices include:
- Inspect the cord for damage prior to each usage. Throw it away if it’s damaged.
- Do not run cords through walls or ceilings as they can overheat.
- Keep extension cords out of high traffic areas where they become tripping hazards.
- Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prong is exposed.
- Do not staple/nail extension cords to walls or baseboards.
- Ensure extension cords are UL, CSA, or ETL certified.
- Read and follow manufacturers’ labels and instructions.
- Discontinue use of any cord that feels hot.
- Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, whether it’s indoor or outdoor.
Some simple precautions can help keep you safe when using extension cords. Watch our electrical safety video above for more safety tips!
Statistics courtesy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.