OSHA Rules on Extension Cord Safety

Electrical safety is one of the main concerns of any workplace, with electrical issues a major source of violations cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA. OSHA is specific in its electrical standards, and they entail every aspect of electrical safety, from equipment to extension cords. OSHA inspectors are strict concerning electrical safety, and OSHA Standard 1910.303(b)(1) allows them to issue a citation by looking at a piece of electric equipment and telling you it is unsafe.

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OSHA Standard 1910.334 concerns the use of portable electric equipment.

Extension Cord Uses

OSHA guidelines for portable electric cord sets, or extension cords, allow temporary usage of extension cords for remodeling, maintenance, repair or demolition of buildings, and holiday lighting needs. According to OSHA, temporary is defined as a 90-day period.

Acceptable Extension Cords

According to the OSHA Fact Sheet, "Working Safely with Electricity," it is required to use only cords that meet OSHA standards and are approved by a laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory, or UL. Approved extension cords have tags stating the testing organization. OSHA regulations require three-wire type extension cords having strain relief. Also, only factory-assembled cords should be used and never modified.

Inappropriate Uses

According to the Office of Compliance, overloading the power capabilities of the cord is considered dangerous and is an OSHA violation. Cords with proper electrical ratings should only be be used for the task at hand. Also, connecting a series of extension cords together, or "daisy chaining," is forbidden, as is using one surge protector/power strip to power another extension cord.

Cord Inspection

OSHA mandates that all extension cords are to be visually inspected before all shifts. This inspection includes looking for loose or deformed parts and damage to the cord's outer jacket, which may reveal damage to the internal wires. Cords that remain connected and are kept safe do not have to be inspected until they are relocated.