Serving Colorado's Counties

Technical Update vol. 26 no 41 -Extension Cord Safety

October 11, 2022

Extension cords are convenient and often necessary in the workplace. However, they also pose a fire or electric shock risk, especially when worn out or misused. Extension cords have maximum amperage limits, which indicate the electric load limit the cord can safely conduct. There are different types of extension cords, and the cord used for a job should match the environment (e.g., inside or outdoors) as well as the power requirements of the devices being plugged into it. You can check the instruction manuals of the devices you plug into the extension cord for their power requirements.

Two-wire Extension Cord

A two-wire extension cord has two prongs, will fit most outlets, and is suitable for powering one or two small appliances. These extension cords are suitable for light indoor use for things such as lamps. Overloading an extension cord increases the risk of electric shock or fire.

Three-wire Extension Cord

A three-wire extension cord has two prongs plus a grounding prong. These should only be used with grounded outlets and are appropriate for use outdoors and with power tools. A three-wire extension cord should always be used with power tools unless the tool happens to be double insulated.

Outdoor extension cords are rated for occasional use, frequent use, and rugged cords. You can determine a cord’s rating by checking for a designation letter on the cord jacket. An extension cord rated for outdoor use will have the letter “W” or the word “Outdoor” printed on its jacket. 

Extension Cord Don’ts

  • Don’t use an extension cord marked for indoor use outdoors.
  • Don’t plug one extension cord into another.
  • Don’t overload cords with more than the proper electrical load.
  • Don’t run extension cords through doorways, holes in ceilings, walls, or floors.
  • Don’t move, bend, or modify any of the metal parts of the extension cord plug.
  • Don’t plug a three-prong plug into a two-hole extension cord.
  • Don’t force a plug into an outlet.
  • Don’t use an extension cord when it is wet.
  • Don’t overheat an extension cord.
  • Don’t cover an extension cord with anything.
  • Don’t drive over an extension cord.
  • Don’t drag an extension cord.
  • Don’t attach extension cords to the wall with nails or staples.
  • Don’t run extension cords under rugs, carpets, or high-traffic areas

What This Means for Counties

Check that your workplace is using extension cords safely. Extension cords are used so frequently that most people don’t give them much thought until they cause a problem. For more information, contact CTSI loss prevention at (303) 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

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