An extension cord can be a handy, temporary way to place electrical equipment wherever you'd like it. But if used improperly, extension cords can cause fire and injury – even death.

 

May is National Electrical Safety Month. As its sponsor, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urges businesses and homeowners to be alert to the potential hazards of inappropriate extension cord use.

 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half of the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. CPSC also estimates that approximately 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage and/or misuse of extension cords.

 

To reduce the likelihood of electrocution or fire from improper extension cord use:

  • Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.
  • When using outdoor tools and appliances, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.
  • Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances.
  • Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs is exposed when the extension cord is in use.
  • Replace cracked or worn extension cords with new #16 gauge cords that have the listing of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, safety closures and other safety features.

To download ESFI's free extension cord checklist, go to http://www.esfi.org/home/extension-cord.pdf.