Safety Sense with Cords
Posted on 3/25/19 7:56 AM
Safety needs to be a priority when using a power cord or cord set. Cords that are broken or damaged in some way can become a fire hazard or cause an electrical shock.
Properly Connecting and Disconnecting a Cord Set
Properly connecting and disconnecting a cord set can help prevent damage to it. Problems can occur when cords are pulled unsafely from the socket. “Take hold of the plug—not the cable—and pull it straight out. Do not yank the plug out by its cable or bend to the side as that could cause the pins in the plug to bend or break and could damage the socket as well. Yanking by the cable can also damage conductors internally or separate the jacket from the plug body by damaging the bend relief or the bonding between the jacket and the plug material,” explained Dan Ford, Technical Support Specialist at Interpower.
If a plug doesn’t fit into an outlet, don’t force it. If the blades on a plug become bent, don’t try to re-straighten them as that could result in cracking and/or possible arcing. Replace the entire plug if pins are missing or loose. Inspect plugs, cable, and connectors for potential damage. If in doubt as to the safety of the cord, replace it.
Cords and Equipment
Ensure that plugs and wall outlets are clear of equipment, furniture, beds, etc. to prevent having the plug and cord set damaged. “Do not push equipment directly against the wall—leave space by the outlet,” Dan said. “Avoid running over cables repeatedly, especially with heavy equipment.” Additionally, don’t pull equipment by the cable and keep cables away from the paths where people walk. Cord sets should not be located where they can be pulled down or tripped over. Avoid running the cord sets over abrasive or sharp obstacles, or where they can be pinched or crushed.
OSHA Standard 1910.334
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1910.334 focuses on the use of equipment. In 1910.334(a)(1), it states: “Handling. Portable equipment shall be handled in a manner which will not cause damage. Flexible electric cords connected to equipment may not be used for raising or lowering the equipment. Flexible cords may not be fastened with staples or otherwise hung in such a fashion as could damage the outer jacket or insulation.” (Note: OSHA standards only apply in the United States.)
It is also important that the power cord or cord set being used is rated appropriately for the product. Ensure cord sets being used have the appropriate amperage rating for the equipment’s needs. Drawing too much current through a cord set that is under-rated can lead to overheating in the cable which will degrade the insulation and jacket materials, and can lead to a fire in time. Depending on where it is being used, make sure it is rated correctly for indoor or outdoor use or resistance to oil or petroleum products.
Compliant with an Independent Testing Lab
Another safety aspect is ensuring that all power cords and cord sets are compliant with an independent testing laboratory, such as UL, CSA, and/or VDE. Compliance marks are an assurance that products meet safety requirements and will function properly under normal, expected usage.
Proper Care of Cords
Proper care of the cords can also help protect the cords from damage. “Clean the cords with soapy water or a mixture of water and non-abrasive cleaning solution. Do not use caustic or petroleum-based solutions (such as paint thinners, gas, or turpentine), because those can cause damage to the jacket of the cable,” Dan explained. It is also suggested to coil the cords loosely when storing them. Do not lay heavy objects on the stored cord and store in a dry place.