EHS Extension Cord Guidelines

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Transcript of EHS Extension Cord Guidelines


College of William & Mary

Extension Cord Safety & Use Guidelines

IntroductionExtension cords provide a convenient method of bringing temporary AC power to a device that is not located near a power outlet. But, if not used properly, extension cords lead to electrical shock hazards, equipment damage, and fire hazards. In addition, improper cord selection can lead to use of an undersized extension cord resulting in an overheated cord and insufficient voltage delivered to the device. This condition can result in a device or cord failure and fire.

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 rooms. About half the injuries involves fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 other. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords.The College of William and Mary is not immune to extension cord hazards. Improper extension cord use is identified as one of the most noted electrical code and safety findings on campus during EH&S inspections.

General Policy

The College of William and Mary has specific requirements for the use of extension cords on campus. These requirements satisfy the VA Fire Prevention Code Section 605 to include all sub-sections. The following is the list of College requirements applicable to all extension cord uses on campus:

1. Extension cords shall not be used as a substitute for fixed or permanent wiring. 2. Extension cords may be used for temporary applications only. Temporary generally means it is associated with a one-time job or with a transient condition. Install permanent wiring for long-term or repetitive needs. An extension cord may be used while awaiting permanent wiring.3. Extension cords shall not be run through holes in walls, ceilings, or floors.4. Extension cords shall not be run through doorways or windows unless approved by the EH&S Office.5. Extension cords shall not be permanently attached to building surfaces.6. Extension cords shall not be concealed by walls, ceiling, or floors.7. All extension cords shall be clean and properly maintained with no exposed live parts or conductors, exposed underground metal parts, splices, substantial abrasion, or other damage that might compromise its safe usage8. Extension cords may not be daisy-chained (one extension cord plugged into another extension cord) (See Figure 1 below)9. Relocatable power taps shall be plugged directly into an approved permanently installed receptacle. (See Figure 1 below)10. Damaged extension cords shall not be spliced or repaired with electrical tape. 11. The molded plug assembly on the extension cord shall not be repaired or replaced as this negates its Underwriter Laboratories(UL) listing.12. Plug-in multi adapters are prohibited from use on campus.

13. Never use two-conductor extension cords (commonly referred to as zip cords). All 120 VAC extension cords used at the College must be three-conductor (grounded) - even if the device it serves uses a two-prong plug.

14. Extension cords should not be used for heat-producing appliances such as coffee pots, toasters, and space heaters. The load from these devices often approaches the circuit capacity, and the added cord length increases the chance of overheating. In addition, the appliance cord to extension cord connection is subject to wear and tear, causing localized heating.15. All temporary cords shall bear the approval marking of UL or other NRTL. Look for the UL Mark or equivalent safety standard listing on extension cords you purchase. This means that representative samples of the cord have been tested for forseeable safety hazards for their intended purpose.16. Store all cords indoors when not in use. Outdoor conditions--especially sunlight-- can deteriorate a cord over time.17. Unplug an extension cord when not in use. The cord will still conduct electricity until it is unplugged from the outlet.18. Some indoor cords with more than one outlet have covers for the unused openings. Use them; they prevent debris and moisture from entering the unused outlets.19. Do not use extension cords that are cut or damaged. Touching even a single, exposed strand of wire can give you an electric shock or burn.20. As a safety feature, extension cords and most appliances have polarized plugs (one blade wider than the other). These special plugs are designed to prevent electric shock by properly aligning circuit conductors. If a plug does not fit, have a qualified electrician install a new outlet.21. Never file or cut the plug blades or grounding pin of an extension cord or appliance to plug it into an ungrounded outlet. Submit a Facilities Management work request to have an electrician install a new outlet with the proper polarized connections. 22. Keep cords out of work areas. If this situation is unavoidable, secure the cord to the floor with tape or use cord molding. Position cones or other attention-getting warnings to alert passersby.23. Do not permanently mount power strips to any facility surface. Note that power strips are equipped with mounting slots and hardware. This allows you to temporarily mount the power strip while in use. The power strip should be removed immediately when finished with your work.Figure 1


Extension cord use is prohibited in offices except when used to power holiday decorations. In these instances, the extension cord use should not exceed 90 days and the extension cord should be unplugged and put away immediately after the decorations have been taken down. Relocatable power taps (RPTs) equipped with integral circuit breakers are allowed for use in offices and there is no time restriction on their use.

Surge protection devices (SPDs) equipped with integral circuit breakers are allowed for use in office areas where protection of sensitive equipment is desired. Like RPTs, there is no time restriction on the use of SPDs. RPTs and SPDs must be plugged directly into a wall receptacle.

Do not connect two or more RPTs, SPDs, extension cords or any combination of the three together in series. This practice is commonly referred to as daisy chaining and it is prohibited. Submit a work request to Facilities Management for installation of a receptacle for the appliance. If an extension cord must be used temporarily, choose the shortest one that will work, and at least one size larger than the appliance cord.Research Labs

Power strips shall not be permanently mounted to any facility surface.For equipment racks, test benches, test carts, and similar apparatus, the preferred method of supplying 120 VAC utility power to rack-mounted instruments is with a special raceway power strip specifically designed for permanent installation.

Residence Halls

Non-fused relocatable power taps and flexible extension cords are prohibited in residence hall rooms. Multi-plug adapters are also prohibited. Relocatable power taps (RPTs) and/or surge protection devices (SPDs) are allowed provided they are grounded and equipped with an integral circuit breaker. RPTs and SPDs must be plugged directly into a wall receptacle. RPTs may be used to provide additional receptacles for student items that require less than 600 watts each. Students should also ensure that they do not exceed the total watts capacity of the RPT. You do this by adding the watts required to power each device you plug into the RPT and then comparing this to the RPT specification on the package or on the back side of the device.

SPDs are used when protection of sensitive electronic devices such as a computer is desired. When SPDs are used the same rules above for RPTs apply to SPDs. Improper use of an extension cord or multiplug adapter is considered a violation of the Housing Contract and the Colleges Fire and Life Safety Program. Infractions may result in College judicial action for applicable residents.Construction, Maintenance, Repair & Renovations

With the wide use of power tools on construction sites, flexible extension cords often are necessary. Because they are exposed, flexible, and unsecured, they are more susceptible to damage than fixed wiring. Extension cords with an equipment grounding conductor must be used at all times. Extension cords must be protected from damage, and not run through doorways or windows where the doors or windows may close, causing damage to the cord. If becomes necessary to run a cord through a doorway or window, then additional means to protect the cord from pinching, scraping and other damage must be provided. Extension cords must be plugged into a circuit protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter on wet or outdoor construction and maintenance sites, or have the ground circuit checked for continuity in an assured grounding conductor program. Detachable multi-tap adapters may not be used on extension cords nor on receptacles. Extension cords should not be run through water or allowed to have connections that may be exposed to puddling water. Extension cords should be a minimum of 16 AWG and be rated for the equipment in use. The following is a guide that might be helpful in selecting the cord:

Extension Cord Ampere Rating

Wire Size

(Copper)Single Phase Two and Three Conductor CordsThree Phase Cords

16AWG 13 amps10 amps

14AWG18 amps15 amps

12AWG25 amps20 amps

10AWG30 amps25 amps

8AWG40 amps35 amps

6AWG55 amps45 amps

4AWG70 amps60 amps

2AWG95 amps80 amps

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