Jacket Separation in Extension Cords is the 2nd Highest Safety Violation

jacket separationOSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reports that jacket separation as associated with extension cords is the second most common safety violation. Since most people use an extension cord at various times, it is important to know how to keep yourself safe.

What is an Extension Cord Jacket?

A jacket on an extension cord is the insulation used to surround the interior wiring. For example, on an exterior extension cord, the jacket might be orange, while on an interior one, the color might be brown or white. Jackets are marked with a sequence of letters that indicate that extension cord’s designated use, based upon the type of wire housed inside the cord. There are 11 different designations, ranging from an “S” cord that is designed for interior use, to a “CL2S” designed for in-wall construction, to a “HPN” generally used on appliances that generate high heat.

Related: Best Extension Cords for Any Situation


Extension cord designated use numbers

Over time, the jacket can become separated from the plug housing, exposing the conductors, or wires. The jacket can also degrade along its length due to damage or wear and tear. Either of these problems poses an unsafe situation.

How Unsafe is a Jacket Separation?

Just ONE exposed copper strand from the electrical conductor can carry enough amperage (200-300 milliamps) to stop the human heart! If both the black wire (live wire) and white wire (neutral wire) conductors are exposed and are touched, the user will experience electrical shock or even death. Up to 15,000-20,000 milliamps are being conducted through your electrical outlet at any time.

OSHA Safety Guidelines

OSHA reports that electrical issues are a major source of safety violations, and issues guidelines for extension cords (or portable electric cord sets) for temporary usage in remodeling, maintenance, repair or demolition, and holiday lighting. Temporary is defined as a 90-day period.

OSHA requires that only cords that meet the OSHA standards and carry the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approval should be used. Three-wire type extension cords must have strain relief. Extension cords with appropriate electrical ratings should be used for the particular task, and cords should never be linked in a “daisy chain” with each other. Two or more extension cords should not be used from a single power strip or surge protector.

Read more in OSHA’s Fact Sheet: Working Safely with Electricity

How You Can Protect Yourself

Before each use of an extension cord, visually inspect both the plug end and the length of the cord for jacket separation, or splits in the exterior covering. Look for deformities and discard that cord if abnormalities are found.

A New Cord Technology

A company called Solid Ground has patented extension cord technology, offering anchored solid ground pins that don’t break during normal construction tasks, and an extra-thick, oil-resistant jacket they claim lasts up to 10 times longer than conventional cords. While we do not offer an endorsement of their projects in this blog post, it may be worth looking into a sturdier extension cord to avoid problems like jacket separation.

Först Consulting Group Helps Homeowners with Construction Issues

Our job at Först Consulting Group is to provide you with information to help you avoid construction problems, or if they have occurred, to assist you in remediation. Our services include construction project management, inspections, testing, documentation, consultation, and litigation support.

Some things you can do on your own, like inspecting extension cords for jacket separation. In other cases, it is prudent to bring in a professional who can inspect and document construction errors and help you resolve them to your satisfaction.

Forst Consulting Group is a subsidiary of The Falcon Group. Contact us today to discuss your construction issue.


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