Extension Cord Safety

My name is Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards.

When you're doing your safety audits, start tuning your eye to look for colors like orange and fluorescent green or yellow and sometimes black as well. Those are often the colors of extension cords. And why do you want to be looking for those? Well you want to identify any kind of extension cord that's being used in place of permanent wiring of a structure because it's prohibited.

Extension cords can only be used for 90 days or less in a place of employment. So 90 days would account for holiday decorations or possibly a piece of equipment that you're moving from one location to the next with frequency, and you need to power it. So when you're doing your safety audits and you find extension cords that look like this orange one here that's wound around a structure or it's tied to a piece of the structure. These are things that probably are an indication that it's not temporary wiring this might be used in place of permanent wiring of a structure. We want to get rid of those.

In my time with OSHA I can tell you that I found extension cord misuse on almost every single investigation that I ever did, so it's a it's a pretty common find in workplaces. And so one of the hazards associated with doing this is if you're tying the extension cord to a structure like this, the insulate of quality on an extension cord isn't always that great and this can wear down over time and this one is tied to a metal structure. And so imagine if you will that this cord gets cut through and we're soon energizing this entire metal structure if we make contact with the live electrical wires in this and that can create a hazard in an organization.

It happened to me once while I was doing an inspection there was an extension cord on a metalworking lathe and it happened to be sandwiched between two metal parts and it had energized the entire metal lathe, and when I placed my hand on it I was shocked.

And so these are the kind of hazards that you want to look for and be mindful to get extension cords removed from your place of employment. It's okay to use them for temporary use but not in place of permanent wiring.

I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.

Safety is everyone's business.