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Extension cord safety tips to follow at home and in business

Electric cordWhether orange, brown, green, or black, extension cords are something everyone uses at some point but rarely think about. They help us get a light plugged in or offer a more convenient charging station for our devices.

At our businesses, extension cords are used, well, extensively. Indoors and outdoors, extension cords help keep lights on, water fountains flowing, and fans operating, just to name a few applications.

But just because extension cords are part of everyday use—and even part of everyday décor—doesn’t mean they should be ignored when it comes to safety measures. From accidental falls to fire, extension cords can be the root of some serious incidents.

Want proof? According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 4,000 injuries occur annually from extension cords that result in emergency room visits. Of those, half are the result of tripping over extension cords. In addition, more than 3,000 home fires originate from extension cords every year.

The numbers might be comparatively small, but the risk is there. So, we’ve got some tips to help keep you, your staff, and your business safe.

Don’t cut the cord—and other safety measures

As noted, the most common injuries associated with extension cords are due to tripping over the cords. And any time you are dealing with something associated with electricity, there’s a fire risk. So, the basics of extension cord safety revolve around the cord’s condition and how and where they are used. ESFI provides some guidelines when using extension cords:

  • Keep it short: Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis, not as permanent solutions. Also, use an appropriate length for the job needed.
  • Check rating: Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, and meet the power needs of the item being used.
  • Inspect for damage: Look for loose or exposed wires and loose connections.
  • Feel for heat: Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged.
  • Avoid walls and ceilings: Extension cords should not run through walls or ceilings—they might overheat, creating a fire hazard.
  • Don’t nail it down: While it seems like a way to secure cords, never nail or staple electrical cords to walls or baseboards.
  • Prohibit pinching: Check that cords aren’t pinched in doors, windows, or under furniture, as the cord’s insulation could be damaged.
  • Clear the right of way: Keep cords out of high-traffic areas to avoid a tripping hazard.
  • Put some effort into it: Insert extension cord plugs fully so no part of the prong is exposed.
  • Verify they are certified: All extension cords should be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL, CSA, or ETL.
  • Read the instructions: You know the basics of extension cord use, but is the cord in your hands right for the job you need completed?

Also remember that water and extension cords should never mix. Avoid having extension cords in or around water at all times.

And when you’re done using the cords—remember these are geared toward temporary use only—put them away. There’s no sense in posing a risk when it’s not necessary.

As the holidays approach, use of extension cords will be on the rise. Use them appropriately, follow safety guidelines, and enjoy the convenience they offer.

Related links:

For more information on safety preparation for your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.