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CPSC Document #16
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSO)
estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric
extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half the
injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people
tripping over extension cords. Thirteen percent of the injuries involve
children under-five years of age; electrical burns to the mouth accounted
for half the injuries to young children.
Following are CPSC investigations of injuries that
illustrate the major accident patterns associated with extension cords,
namely children putting extension cords in their mouths, overloaded cords,
worn or damaged cords, and tripping over cords:
The National Electrical Code says that many
cord-connected appliances should be equipped with polarized grounding type
plugs. Polarized plugs have one blade slightly wider than the other and can
only be inserted one way into the outlet. Polarization and grounding ensure
that certain parts of appliances that could have a higher risk of electric
shock when they become live are instead connected to the neutral, or
grounded, side of the circuit. Such electrical products should only be used
with polarized or grounding type extension cords.
|CPSC has the following
recommendations for the purchase and safe use of extension cords:
* Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.
* Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances.
* Make sure cords do not dangle from the counter or table tops where they can be pulled down or tripped over.
* 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.
* With cords lacking safety closures, cover any unused outlets with electrical tape or with plastic caps to prevent the chance of a child making contact with the live circuit.
* Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs are exposed when the extension cord is in use.
* When disconnecting cords, pull the plug rather than the cord itself.
* Teach children not to play with plugs and outlets.
* Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong, which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock and electrocution.
|* In locations where furniture or
beds may be pushed against an extension cord where the cord joins the
plug, use a special "angle extension cord," which is specifically designed
for use in these instances.
* Check the plug and the body of the extension cord while the cord is in use. Noticeable warming of these plastic parts is expected when cords are being used at their maximum rating, however, if the cord feels hot or if there is a softening of the plastic, this is a warning that the plug wires or connections are failing and that the extension cord should be discarded and replaced.
* Never use an extension cord while it is coiled or looped. Never cover any part of an extension cord with newspapers, clothing, rugs, or any objects while the cord is in use. Never place an extension cord where it is likely to be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic.
* Don't use staples or nails to attach extension cords to a baseboard or to another surface. This could damage the cord and present a shock or fire hazard.
* Don't overload extension cords by plugging in appliances that draw a total of more watts than the rating of the cord.
* Use special, heavy duty extension cords for high wattage appliances such as air conditioners, portable electric heaters, and freezers.
* When using outdoor tools and appliances, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.