to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), top electrical
safety hazards include electrical fires caused by aging wiring and
misuse of surge suppressors and include electrocutions from wiring
systems and large appliances. Electricity causes more than 40,000
fires ever year in the United States, resulting in hundreds of injuries
and deaths. Electrical fires kill more than 750 people and cause
more than $1 billion in property damage annually. Extension cords
have been identified by the CPCS as a leading cause of electrical
fires in the home. Every six minutes there is an extension cord-related
electrical fire in the United States. Extension cord fires outnumbered
fires beginning with attached or unattached power cords by more than
2-to-1. Employers and employees need to consider an important
element of electrical safety in the workplace is the safe use of
extension cords, power strips, and surge protectors.
essential to the operations of a modern automated
office as a source of power. Electrical equipment used in an office
is potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries
if improperly used or maintained. Electrical accidents usually
occur as a result of faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation,
or misuse of equipment on the part of office workers.
Electrical Safety Tips
or repair loose or frayed cords on all electrical devices.
Always use caution when plugging
a cord into an outlet.
- Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
- In areas with small children, electrical outlets should have plastic
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into
a receptacle outlet.
- Avoid overloading outlets. Consider plugging only one high-wattage
appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
- If outlets or switches feel warm, shut off the circuit and have them
checked by an electrician.
When possible, avoid the use of "cube taps" and other devices
that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle.
- Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn, and
use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.
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The outlet, or receptacle, is perhaps the most commonly used and
least thought of device in the home. Every electrical appliance,
tool, computer, and entertainment
center component we use is powered through one. We just plug in and forget
about it, assuming all our power needs will be met. And that’s true if
we follow some simple but important safety principles.
- Check outlets regularly for problems, including over-heating, loose connections,
reversed polarity, and corrosion. Consider having an electrical inspection
performed by a qualified, licensed electrician to help determine the integrity
of your outlets and your entire electrical system.
- Check for outlets that have loose-fitting plugs, which can lead to arcing
- Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances. Never plug more than
one high-wattage appliance in at a time in each.
Check for any hot or discolored outlet wall plates. Look from across the room;
sometimes you’ll see a darkened area in a teardrop shape around and above
the outlet that may indicate dangerous heat buildup at the connections.
- Warm to the touch is OK, hot is not. If an outlet or switch wall plate
is hot to the touch, immediately shut off the circuit and have it professionally
- Replace any missing or broken wall plates.
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We can sometimes get so caught up in the safety awareness of our
appliances and lamps that we forget about the safety principles
that relate to its
power cord. An appliance can look like it’s in good operating
order and yet still represent a hazard if its cord is damaged.
Make sure all power cords and extension cords are in good condition,
not frayed, cracked, or cut. If the power cord to a lamp or appliance
is damaged, take
the item to an authorized service center, or cut the power cord and
dispose of the item safely. Cutting the cord helps ensure that no one else will
up the item and take the hazard home with them.
Don't use power cords if they
are frayed, cracked, or cut.
Never attempt to repair or splice a cut cord yourself. “Electrical” tape,
as commonly referred to – usually black vinyl tape – is
not rated for the heat generated by electricity running through wires.
The tape will
melt and burn.
- Make sure all electrical items, including appliances, extension cords,
and surge suppressors, are certified by a nationally recognized independent
testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), CSA, ETL, or MET.
- Do not coil power cords when in use.
- Do not place power cords in high traffic areas or under carpets, rugs,
- Power cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard,
or another object.
- Make sure appliances are turned off before connecting cords to outlets.
- Never remove
the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit
into a two-prong outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock.
- Never force
a plug into an outlet. Plugs should fit securely into outlets,
but should not require much force to fit.
- Make sure to fully insert the plug into the outlet.
- Unplug appliances when not in use to conserve energy but also to minimize
the opportunities for electric shock or fire.
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Extension cords are temporary solutions only, and yet the majority
of homes have at least one extension cord plugged in and left in place.
Continual use can cause the insulation to rapidly deteriorate, creating
a dangerous shock and fire hazard. In addition to the same safety tips
that apply to power cords, keep the following principles in mind when
using extension cords.
- Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are
not intended as permanent household wiring.
- A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have
too few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed
where you need them.
- Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use,
indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the appliance
or tool being plugged into it.
- Assume 125 watts per amp when converting to determine if the extension
cord you intend to use is properly rated for the appliance being connected
to it. For example, if your appliance indicates that it uses 5 amps
at 125 volts, then its wattage rating is 625 watts (5 amps X 125 volts).
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Strips and Surge Suppressors
Power strips give us the ability to plug more products into the
same outlet, which can be a help but also a hindrance to safety
inappropriately. Power strips and surge suppressors don’t provide
more power to a location, just more access to the same limited capacity
of the circuit into which it is connected. The circuit likely also
still serves a variety of other outlets and fixtures in addition
to the multiple electrical items you might be serving with the power
strip. In addition to the tips above, keep these safety principles
in mind when using power strips and surge suppressors.
- Be sure you are not overloading the circuit. Know the capacity of the
circuit and the power requirements of all the electrical items plugged
into the power strip and into all the other outlets on the circuit,
as well as the light fixtures on the circuit.
- A heavy reliance on power strips is an indication that you have too
few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed
where you need them.
- Understand that a surge suppressor only protects the items plugged
into it, not back along the circuit into which it is connected.
- Surge suppressors can manage the small surges and spikes sometimes
generated by the turning on and off of appliances. They may even protect
against a large surge generated from outside sources like lightning
or problems along the power lines to the office or house. In the event
of a large surge or spike, the surge suppressor is a one-time-use protector
and will likely have to be replaced.
- Consider purchasing surge suppressors with cable and phone jacks to
provide the same protection to your phone, fax, computer modem, and
- Not all power strips are surge suppressors, not all surge suppressors
can handle the same load and events. Be sure the equipment you
buy matches your needs.
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Power Strip Capacity
All appliances indicate how much wattage is consumed when operated.
That rating can be found on the appliance itself and often within the
use and care booklet that accompanies the product. Other appliances
will indicate power usage in amps, rather than watts.
If your appliance indicates that it uses 5 amps at 125 volts,
then its wattage rating is 625 watts (5 amps X 125 watts).
If you are going to use extension cords, power strips or surge protectors
with two or more appliances, you must add together the wattage rating
for all appliances used on the cord. The total of those wattage ratings
will help you determine which gauge size you will need.
Some common household
examples in watts:
40, 60, 75,
Do the math
Determine all the electrical items plugged into the extension cord,
power strip or surge protector. Determine the power requirements
for each item, either in amps or watts. Locate the capacity of the
extension cord, power strip, or surge protector you are using. Add
up all the power requirements. This total should not exceed 80 percent
of the rated capacity of the extension cord, power strip, or surge
protector you are using.
rated for 15 amps
X 125 volts = 1,875 watts; 80 percent = 1,500 watts
|| 2 amps,
|| 1.2 amps,
|| 15 watts
|| 25 watts
|| 1.2 amps,
Jet 4 Printer (Idle)
|| 2 amps,
|| 9.4 amps,
|| 840 watts
|| 1,765 watts
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National Fire Protection Association
Consumer Product Safety Commission, Extension Cords Fact Sheet
Naval Safety Center, Extension Cords: Do's and Don'ts
Consumer Product Safety Commission, Safety Tips
Electrical Safety Foundation International, Indoor Electrical Safety