How can power cords create electrical hazards?

Workers on California construction sites frequently use power tools, and while some tools utilize portable batteries, the vast majority of power tools operate off of electricity from a wall socket via a flexible power cord. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the use of power cords can be hazardous if they are improperly maintained or misused on the jobsite, with electric shocks and burns resulting.

Cord damage is one way cords can produce electrical hazards. With the sharp edges present on a construction site, such as bladed tools, fastenings, staples, and the edges of doors and windows, a cord's outer covering could accidently be sliced open, exposing the electrical conductors within. Sometimes it does not take an accidental cutting of a cord to expose the conductors, as cords that are frequently used may decay due to aging. Allowing these conductors to be exposed to the outside can subject employees to possible burns or shocks, plus increase the danger of a fire.

Sometimes overestimating cord lengths can result in electrical problems. When a cord is plugged in, workers should extend the cord without pulling it fully taut. Some flexibility should be preserved. This prevents the strands of an electrical conductor within the cord from breaking loose. A cord may break open at the plug, exposing the electrical conductors or causing the conductors to touch one another.

Electrical danger also arises when a cord connector comes into contact with water. At times, a construction site may experience rain. Water drops can accumulate on cords, or water can pool around cords. If the cord connection is exposed to the water, electricity can leak out into the water. If a person picks up the cord while it is wet, or if the worker steps into the water directly, the electrical current could shock that person.

This article is intended to inform readers about construction workplace accidents and is not to be taken as legal advice.


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