Extensions cords are associated with ~4,000 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms on an annual basis and ~3500 fires causing serious injury or death due to electrocution. The harsh conditions found in livestock and poultry facilities elevate the risks associated with misuse of extension cords. While extension cords can be convenient for powering portable equipment in remote locations in livestock facilities, they are notintended for use in powering permanent or semi-permanent equipment, even in remote locations.
Permanent or semi-permanent equipment should be hard-wired into the permanent wiring of a building or plugged directly into a suitable outlet without requiring the use of extension cords. Similarly, extension cords should not be left in place when there is an intermittent need for equipment. Rather, the extension cords should be unplugged and removed and stored appropriately between each use. Cords must be carefully inspected each time they are used and the user must be certain the extension cords are appropriately sized and rated to meet the demands of the equipment. The use of ground-fault circuit interrupters in non-permanent wiring is mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations.
(29 CFR 1910.304):
“All 125-volt, single-phase, 15-, 20-, and 30-ampere receptacle outlets that are not part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure and that are in use by personnel shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.”
Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; unplug and safely store them after every use. Continual exposure to harsh environments can cause the insulation to rapidly deteriorate, creating a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Cords should be stored in dry, closed cabinets or hung on walls to protect them from rodent damage.
Inspect extension cords before every use and never use a cord that is damaged in any way. Any extension cord of questionable condition should be repaired by an electrician or permanently discarded. Touching even a single exposed strand of wire can give you an electric shock or burn.
Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and that they meet or exceed the power needs of the appliance or tool being used. Heavy duty cords (12 gauge wire – yellow cords) are required for use in farm settings.
Use extension cords with built in Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) in all outdoor areas and any locations where there are any chances of moisture or abrasion.
Do not run extension cords through walls or ceilings. Do not wrap extension cords around posts or fences. Cords can overheat creating a serious fire hazard and may become worn quickly by any abrasive surface they contact.
Insert plugs fully into the outlet so that no part of the prongs is exposed when the extension cord is in use. Use only grounded extension cords (ie. All male plugs should have an intact grounding lug). Never modify a cord to meet the configuration of an outlet.
If an extension cord is needed for a period of time, temporary power taps may be better solutions. These devices can be used when insufficient electrical receptacles are available. These devices may have 3 to 6 electrical receptacles, a circuit breaker, a 6-ft. to 15-ft. cord and a surge protector, and should bear the mark of a certified testing organization.
Ensure that all extension cords are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL, CSA, or ETL, and read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Extension cords should be disposed every 2-3 years as wear is not always externally obvious and internal wires could be faulty. It is better to retire old cords on a routine schedule than to take a chance of a cord malfunctioning.
Extension cords should be periodically tested for conductivity, which will indicate whether or not the cord is still functioning properly. The date and initials of the person who ran the conductivity test (usually an electrician) should be clearly marked on the cord.
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