Electrical problems were one of the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations in 2017. According to Consumer Safety, 400 people die each year—and another 4,000 are injured—due to electrical incidents. Why are we still struggling to safely harness the power of electricity?
There are two primary ways people are harmed by electricity: They either touch exposed conductors or wires and directly absorb the energy or intercede the current in the air during a phenomenon known as electric arcing. An electric arc forms when electricity jumps from one exposed conductor to another (e.g., a damaged wire to a person) and can produce a searing flash.
If either of these two scenarios takes place, the electrical current will use a person’s body to continue the flow of electricity. Predictably, this interaction has several severe or fatal outcomes, including:
In the vast majority of electrical failures, injuries and deaths, one or more of these four issues is to blame:
Poor quality materials will contribute to the degradation of a power cord’s protective sheathing (the outermost layer that seals the cable and creates a barrier between the electrical components and the outside world). If this sheathing develops cracks or tears, the cord’s secondary shielding and insulation may be exposed to human touch or corrosive elements like pollution and moisture.
Power cords have a shelf life and must be replaced once they reach a certain age. This timeframe will depend on the construct of the cable (some are more rugged than others) and the application in which it is used.
A military technician wouldn’t use the same power cord in the middle of a desert landscape he uses in his climate-controlled family room. The ampacity, materials and design of an extreme outdoor cable are far different than a cable intended for indoor use because the environmental factors and use cases are more rugged and damaging. Likewise, if a military technician tried to use an indoor power cord in the field, the cable would undoubtedly fail to perform correctly (or at all).
Electrical overloading is the No. 1 cause of most house fires. If a power cord is underrated for the application (meaning too much electrical current is flowing through the cable) or if too many appliances are plugged into one socket (which increases the current carried by the cable), the cable will likely fail. When the current in an electrical cable exceeds its rated ampacity, the cable will overheat, which may melt the insulation and cable jacketing, and could start a fire.
1. Select the right power cord for the application.
Power cord variants extend far beyond indoor versus outdoor utilization. When making a power cord purchase, start with a list of all factors that will impact the life and performance of your cable, such as:
2. Pick a reputable seller.
The convenience of Amazon.com is tempting, but cheap power cords sold by unknown sellers will increase your risk of fire and injury. Cheap power cords will also break down faster and may not meet the demands of the intended application. Instead, work with a world-renowned manufacturer and supplier of power cords—like StayOnline. These types of sellers carefully engineer their products from the inside out using high-quality materials that can stand up to even the most stringent expectations for safety, durability and performance.
3. Eliminate octopus connections.
Once you have a power cord that meets the demands of your application, use it correctly! If you have an “octopus” configuration with several power cords plugged into a single outlet, disconnect every cord immediately. As you disarm this hazard, be sure to pull at the plug; a quick jerk of the cord itself can damage the cable, the connector or the wall socket and may produce sparks, electric arcing or an electrical fire.
As a general rule of thumb, regularly check for wear and tear or damages and don’t put off replacing power cords if they start to show signs of deterioration. The upfront cost of a quality power cord is worth every penny compared to the cost of property damage, injury or the loss of a life.
Check out our robust inventory of power cords.