Electrical Safety

Be Inflexible About Flexible Cord and Cable Safety Measures

In October 2014, OSHA reinspected Wood Fibers, Inc., a wood pellet manufacturing facility in Niagara, Wisconsin, for the fifth time in 3 years. The employer had been cited for serious hazards in 2012, but late last year, conditions had not improved much. Wood Fibers was cited for four repeat and eight serious violations, including serious citations for the use of damaged electrical cords and the use of flexible cords and cables in place of fixed wiring.

Misusing flexible cords and cables can lead to electrocutions and fire hazards. Here are the safety precautions you should be taking to ensure that flexible cords and cables are used appropriately and kept in a safe condition.

Safety Measures

To maintain flexible cords and cables in safe condition and prevent hazards, make sure that:

  • Strain relief is provided. To be flexible, cords must be more finely stranded than fixed wiring; therefore, they are more easily damaged or pulled loose at terminal screws and joints. This kind of damage can expose live wiring or create a short circuit by allowing conductors to touch each other.

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  • Cords, plugs, joints, and connections are routinely inspected for damage. Abrasion, aging, temperature extremes, chemical and radiation exposures, rough use, and sharp edges can all damage flexible cords’ sheathing and insulation, exposing the wires and creating fire and electrocution hazards. Plugs can also be damaged if prongs are bent or broken or if wires are pulled free from their connections. Extension cords and cords on portable equipment should be inspected before each shift or each use and taken out of service or repaired if damage is found.

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  • Cords and cables are selected appropriately. Flexible cords and cables should be selected with care for the environment they’re used in and the amount of current they will be required to carry. For example, wet environments may require cords equipped with a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Ratings derived from the National Electrical Code should be marked along the cord at 1-foot intervals: cords rated for hard service will be marked S, ST, SO, and STO; cords rated for junior hard service will be marked SJ, SJO, SJT, and SJTO.

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