Creative Temporary Wiring

 In Tip of the Week

Number 5 of the OSHA Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Violations list for 2013 is “Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (linked: 29 CFR 1910.305).”  We’re not surprised. The SCM Team is often asked to perform safety audits for our clients. And we have seen a number of what we might call “creative” wiring methods.

What do we mean by “creative” wiring methods? You’ve seen them. Extension cords stretched across aisles or used for permanent wiring when they are meant to be used for temporary wiring only. Or the popular use of a three pronged cord plugged into an extension cord that has only two holes. Have you seen an area where there are so many electrical appliances and pieces of equipment plugged into an outlet that it is overloaded. Sure – we all have.

We’ve seen it – but that does not mean it’s safe. The regulation cited states that temporary wiring is not to be used for more than 90 days, and is to be removed as soon as whatever it was used for is over. In other words, temporary wiring should only be temporary.

This is a timely message. If you take time to read the regulation, it mentions Christmas decorations. Offices as well as homes make use of temporary wiring to string up lights, and make things a little merrier this time of year. The regulation acknowledges that temporary wiring for the holidays is an acceptable use.

But does that make it safer? Not according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA reports that:

  • Electrical fires were involved in an estimated annual average of 47,820 reported home structure fires in 2007–2011. These fires resulted in 455 civilian (non-firefigher) deaths and 1,518 civilian injuries, with $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
  • Nearly one third (30%) of home electrical fires began with ignition of wire or cable insulation.
  • December and January are the peak months for home electrical fires.

While the NFPA statistics are related to residential fires, wiring also contributes to fires at worksites. It is reported that 39% of workplace fires are electrical related. While that statistic includes a wide range of electrical issues, we don’t need to make it worse by using temporary wiring incorrectly.

So today’s safety tip is two pronged:

  1. Perform your own safety audit of your worksite. Are you making appropriate use of temporary wiring? Review the regulation linked above if you have questions, or contact us.
  2. Think about appropriate use of temporary extension cords while decorating for the holidays, at work and at home. Are the cords in good condition? Would they pass inspection by a safety guy? You be that safety guy. Don’t let a bad wire ruin your holiday.
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