Workplace fires can be prevented

  • Published
  • By Jeremy Maddox
  • 452 AMW/Safety
A cigarette can incinerate a forest, a match can contribute to millions of dollars in property damage, and a faulty power strip or extension cord can easily bring down a large building. It goes to show that something small and overlooked can be potentially dangerous, and in some cases, deadly.
In recent years, extension cords have ac-counted for approximately 6,900 fires, 91 civilian deaths, and $115.9 million in direct property damage per year on average. Major contributors in these incidents were: using extension cords as permanent wiring, using unapproved extension cords, overloading power capabilities of the cord during temporary use, daisy chaining (plugging one extension cord or power strip into another and another, etc.), and using one surge protector or power strip to power another (Source: National Fire Protection Agency).

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from these hazards. First, look for damaged wires, fraying, and daisy chaining in your immediate area. Second, see what items are being plugged into the power strips or extension cords, which are not built to accommodate high wattage, heat-producing items such as refrigerators, microwave ovens and coffeepots. To put it in perspective, a microwave oven pulls approximately 1200 watts as compared to a desktop computer that pulls roughly 5 watts. Computers may be plugged into a power strip, but appliances must not. The rule-of-thumb we like to use is "computers are cool; appliances and heat...too hot!"
Sometimes it is the simple things that evade us, those things that we see daily and become desensitized to. If we all do our part, detach ourselves from time-to-time and check for hazards, we will create a safer work environment for ourselves and our coworkers.
Keep firefighters out of your workspace by applying this knowledge in prevention before you fall victim as a result of misuse of a power strip or extension cord.

For information and references on extension cord or power strip use, call the safety office.