Apr 23, 2014

Reduce Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Liability for Employers: Extension Cord Safety Tips

As a Massachusetts business owner, you are more susceptible to Massachusetts workers' compensation claims if you do not do provide the highest safety standards, and as a worker, you are more susceptible to injury if you do not adhere to a stricter code of safety. So, it becomes critical for all parties to properly protect themselves in the workplace, and a great place to start is with extension cord safety. Specifically, extension cords are a common electrical tool used throughout every industry to bring electrical power from fixed electrical sockets. And when used properly, they are a great tool. However, 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 room; and about half of the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate from 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 help reduce your risk as a an employer or as an employee, ensure that the following safety precautions are being instituted and followed when it comes to extension cords:

  • Use extension cords only on temporary basis. The OSHA standards state an extension cord should not be used in place of permanent wiring.
  • Do not remove the prongs of an electrical plug. If plug prongs are missing, loose, or bent, replace the entire plug.
  • Do not use an adapter on an extension cord to defeat its standard grounding device. (e.g., only place three-prong plugs in three-prong outlets; do not alter them to fit in a two-prong outlet.)
  • Use extension cords that are the correct size or rating for the equipment in use. The diameter of the extension cord should be the same or greater than the cord of the equipment in use. In general, only commercial grade extension cords should be used.
  • When working outdoors, only use cords rated for outdoor use.
  • Do not run cords above ceiling tiles or through walls.
  • Keep electrical cords away from areas where they may be pinched and areas where they may pose a tripping or fire hazard (e.g., doorways, walkways, under carpet, etc.)
  • Always inspect the cord prior to use to ensure the insulation isn't cut or damaged. Discard damaged cords, cords that become hot, or cords with exposed wiring. Electrical tape is not insulated material. Never repair an extension cord by wrapping the electrical tape over the insulation casing. OSHA regulations state repairs to an extension cord can only be performed by a competent person using similar materials used by the manufacturer. The safest option is to discard the cord.
  • Do not unplug an extension cord by pulling on the cord; pull on the plug. By pulling on the cord over a period of time, you will loosen and may even disconnect the wiring to the plug.
  • In locations where equipment is pushed against an extension cord where the cord joins the plug, use a special "angle extension cord" specifically designed for use in these instances.

When followed, these tips will help your business, employers, and self be safer—working to avoid injuries, reducing liability or need to claim workers’ compensation, and will generally allow for smoother company operations.

For further safety tips and information on Massachusetts workers’ compensation, learn more about our Workers’ Compensation insurance program, visit AWANE’s safety blog, or contact us—we’re happy to help you out in any way we can!