Extension and Power Strip/Surge Protector Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with extension cords and power strips/surge protectors are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over cords. The most common causes of fires from extension cords, power strips, or surge protectors are improper use and overloading, especially when cords have multiple outlets such as power strips and surge protectors.

Five Things to Avoid:

  1. Wrong Size: Each cord has a gauge that measures its size which determines the maximum electrical capacity. The smaller the gauge number the larger the wire. Larger wires can safely transfer higher electrical current. If you do not use the correct size for the electrical load to be carried, it can cause fires. Most light duty extension cords are only rated for a maximum of 10 amps (1200) watts and most power strips and surge protectors are rated at 15 amps (1875 watts). They are not intended to be used for high load equipment such as refrigerators, coffee machines, microwave ovens or any device with a heating element.
  2. Wrong Type: Know the approved use! Do not use cords rated for indoor use, outdoors. Do not use household cords at work. Instead it should be labeled for industrial or commercial use. To determine the intended use, review the label which will state the approved use and list the independent testing laboratory that approved it such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ETL or MET.
  3. Wrong Care: Do not coil, bend or twist the cord. Do not run cords under rugs, through walls, windows, or ceiling tiles, or attach to a building surface. Power strips or surge protectors should never hang from their cord. Do not leave cords coiled when in use. This will not allow for heat to escape and can cause fires. Always inspect the cords for wear and damage before each use. Never repair a cord, it should be removed and replaced.
  4. Wrong Treatment: Do not remove the grounding pin. Do not use “cheaters” or 2 wire adapters to connect to a two prong outlet. Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs is exposed.
  5. Wrong Use: Extension cords should be used on a temporary basis only. Never “daisy-chain” which is where a power strip or extension cord has been plugged into another power strip or extension cord. If you do not have enough electrical outlets available either redesign the workspace or request additional outlets through the work order system.

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