Fact Sheets : Electrical Safety

Improper use of plugs, wiring and electrical extension cords can cause fires. In The USA, about 4,700 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 persons and injuring 280 others. Overheating of extension cords can occur at the plug, at the socket, or over the entire length of the cord. Hot plugs and sockets are often caused by deteriorated connections to the cord wires. Prevention is best. Here are some recommendations by the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Put safety plugs in all unused electrical outlets, in order to prevent a baby or child from inserting fingers or toys into it. Teach children not to play with plugs and outlets.
  • Make sure that all electrical cords are in good condition. Never run cords under the carpet, and avoid overloading sockets with many plugs; this can start an electrical fire.
  • 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.
  • Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third prong
  • In locations where furniture or beds push 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.
  • Feel the temperature of the cords when they are in use. If they are hot to the touch, disconnect the appliances. If there is any sign of overheating, replace the extension cords with new ones having No. 16 or heaver gauge wire (the lower the gauge number, the heavier the wire and the more electrical current the cord can safely carry).