Extension cords – inspect them regularly, use them safely

  • Published
  • By Air Force Flight Test Center Ground Safety
  • AFFTC Ground Safety
People use extension cords almost every day both at work and home. They are very useful devices, but they can present a fire or shock hazard when they are worn out or used improperly. The following information will help minimize the hazards associated with extension cord use.

Types of Extension Cords
Extension cords come in either two or three-wire types. Two-wire extension cords should only be used to operate one or two small appliances. Three-wire cords are used for outdoor appliances and electric power tools. The third wire on this cord is a ground wire. This type of cord should never be plugged into any ungrounded electrical outlet. Only grounded extension cords are to be used with power tools unless the tool is double insulated.

Construction sites require extension cords that are specified by the National Electric Code for hard usage or extra hard usage. Approved cords may be identified by the word "outdoor" or the letters "WA" on the jacket.

Care and Inspection of Extension Cords
Extension cords must be treated with care and checked regularly for damage or deterioration. The cord itself should never be pulled to disconnect it from an electrical source; remove it by grasping the plug. It should not be placed under rugs or furniture and should never be strung through doorways, windows, walls, ceilings or floors. Damaged cords present a potential fire or shock hazard and should be destroyed and replaced immediately.

An extension cord should never be used as a substitute for permanent wiring. It should not be fastened to a building or structure, even though staples are sold for this purpose at many hardware stores. Avoid plugging two cords together to make a longer one. It's best to use one cord in a continuous length from the receptacle to the appliance or tool. Extension cords that are either connected together or are too long will reduce operating voltage and efficiency of tools or appliances and may cause motor damage.

Extension cords are convenient but they require proper care and attention. Use good housekeeping practices at home and at work to keep extension cords from being a tripping hazard or becoming damaged. Inspect them regularly for wear and replace defective units.

Prevent potential electrical hazards that may lead to someone's injury!