We all use extension leads in our daily lives – in the home, at work, even on holiday. As with anything that you plug into the mains, or any time electricity is involved, you need to take some basic safety precautions to ensure a minimum risk to health and safety. Here is our guide to using extension cables and reels safely.
Never use any electrical extension cable that shows any signs of wear or physical damage. If there is any fraying of the insulation where it meets the plug or the extension bank, any nicks or cuts in the cable itself or any damage to the plug or bank, you need to discard it straight away. Check your extension cables thoroughly before you use them.
Don’t chain extension leads together. Always use an extension cable that is the appropriate length for the task at hand, otherwise you can run the risk of overheating and it is much harder to make sure that all the various plugs, banks, connections and cables are intact and safe for use.
It is also good practice to use an extension cable in just one room. Snaking it into different rooms or through doorways can cause the cable to rub against door frames or walls and become damaged in that way.
If you find that you are constantly using an extension cable, it might be time to consider getting new sockets installed. They are safer, they don’t cause a trip hazard and they don’t need to be monitored for wattage usage or damage. In business settings, you’ll also need to get your extension leads tested periodically by an independent electrical tester – over the long run it will work out cheaper to simply add to your sockets.
Lastly, using extension leads means there are cables trailing at your site. Make sure that these are tucked behind furniture, clearly marked or, ideally, protected with a cable protecting mat. These will not only stop people from walking into the cable and tripping over, but they also protect the cable, the flooring and any equipment that is plugged into the cable.
Cable reels need slightly different attention. If you are fixing these to a wall or ceiling for a permanent installation, then you need to make sure that they are very securely anchored into a stud or joist – throughout their daily use, they are likely to be jerked on and pulled around quite a bit, so check that the fixings are still secure quite frequently.
When you use a cable reel it is good practice to unwind the entire cable, even if you don’t need all of it. This is because, when it is coiled, any heat generated doesn’t dissipate easily so it can build up and cause danger.
For both cable reels and electrical extension leads in general, always make sure to use the appropriate indoor or outdoor model. Indoor cables are not suitable for use in the garden or outdoors in general, where they are exposed to UV rays and potential contact with water or damp.