Electrical Cord and Power Strip Safety

Improper use of easily overloaded, unapproved extension cords can present a serious fire safety hazard in the workplace. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution equipment, such as extension cords, was the second leading cause of fire deaths in the U.S. between 1994 and 1998. The most common cause of fires from extension cords is due to improper use and/or overloading, especially when cords have multiple outlets. Most extension cords are only rated for a maximum of ten amps or 1200 watts. Overloading can occur when multiple devices are plugged into one cord or when cords are “daisy chained” (plugging multiple extension cords together). 

The use of unapproved extension cords is a violation of both OSHA and National Fire Protection Association codes. Approved extension cords are only allowable in the workplace as temporary wiring, and for no more than 90 days.

Inappropriate Use of Extension Cords

  • Using as permanent wiring
  • Using unapproved extension cords
  • Overloading power capabilities of the cord during temporary use
  • Daisy chaining, (plugging one extension cord into another and another, etc.) using one surge protector/power strip to power another

Basic Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Extension Cords

  • Cords must be properly approved (by Underwriters Laboratory, etc.)
  • Approved cords must be for temporary use only (no more than 90 days)
  • Extension cords may be used for remodeling and maintenance or repair of structures or equipment

Power Strips

  1. They are intended to be directly connected to a permanently installed branch circuit receptacle.
  2. They are not intended to be series connected (daisy chained) to other power strips or to extension cords.
  3. They are not intended to be permanently secured, nor are they intended to be used as a substitute for fixed wiring.
  4. The cords of power strips taps are not intended to be routed through walls, windows, ceilings, floors or similar openings.
  5. Power strips must be properly approved. (by Underwriters Laboratory, etc.)

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the use of extension cords or power strips, please contact Safety Director David Hemp at 507-537-6470 or Dave.Hemp@smsu.edu.

Last Modified: 1/24/17 9:49 AM