Sometimes we need to work in rooms that don’t have a lot of plug sockets. If this is the case, an extension lead can be a lifesaver!
Extension leads can also be a real benefit when we need extra sockets temporarily, for example, when putting Christmas decorations up.
However, you need to take care of extension leads, extension cords, extension reels, and block adaptors. If overloaded or misused, they can cause a fire or an electric shock.
In America, extension leads cause 3,000 fires a year and injure over 250 people. Although we do not have similar figures for the UK, there have been several news stories where people have escaped fire through overloaded extension leads.
This guide will show you how to use extension leads as safely as possible, and why PAT testing your extension leads can keep you safe.
How many appliances can I plug into an extension lead?
Not all electrical equipment is created equal. Different equipment uses different amounts of power. For example, a kettle uses 20 times more power than a fridge does.
Most extension leads can handle a maximum of 13 amps. Smaller ones may only be able to handle 10 amps.
Electrical Safety First has a socket calculator so you can see if the combination of equipment you plug in is potentially dangerous.
The Socket Calculator has been brought to you by Electrical Safety First.
For more safety information visit https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
Is it safe to plug an extension lead into another extension lead?
No – you should never run two extension cords together.
Connecting two or more extension leads together (sometimes known as ‘daisy-chaining) is unsafe for several reasons.
- The wires can cause a trip hazard
- The extension leads can be left coiled up and get hot, increasing the chance of fire
- They can be wound around metal (for example, desk legs), increasing the chance of the metal becoming live
- The extension leads can overload causing damage (for example, melted and burned plug sockets)
Only use one extension lead per socket and never plug an extension lead into another extension lead.
Are there any regulations surrounding the use of extension leads?
There aren’t any specific extension lead regulations.
However, regulations like The Health & Safety at Work Act and The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 make it your responsibility to provide a safe working environment for employees and customers.
Top tips for using extension leads safely
Here are our top tips for using extension leads as safely as possible.
1. Make sure your extension lead has a fuse
A fuse means that if your extension lead overloads, it will shut down.
This is why block/socket adaptors are not ideal for use, as many of them don’t have fuses.
2. Don’t cover extension leads with a carpet or blanket
This can not only increase the risk of overheating and damage to the lead cable, but can be a potential trip hazard.
If you do need to cover a lead, use a rubber protection strip – the rubber acts as an insulator and stops the lead from getting damaged.
3. Make sure the cable is unwound, uncoiled, and detangled
A tangled or knotted cable is more likely to overheat. When using an extension reel, make sure that it is fully unwound and uncoiled.
4. Keep your extension lead safe when not in use
When not using your extension lead, unplug it and store it in a safe place. Don’t wrap the cord around the lead as this can damage it.
5. Use an outdoor lead in the garden or outside the home
Don’t put your extension lead anywhere it can get wet – bathrooms and electricity don’t mix!
If you’re using your extension lead outside or in an outbuilding, use one that has been specifically designed for outdoor use.
6. Pull the plug rather than the cord
When disconnecting equipment, pull it by the plug rather than the cord. This will extend the life of your extension cord and keep it safe.
7. Buy your extension lead from a reliable supplier
Extension leads bought cheaply from online marketplaces seem like a bargain, but they are more likely to be dangerous. Check your extension lead before you use it
Keep an eye out for anything unusual, like the smell of burning plastic or smoke.
If you see, hear, or smell anything unusual, or the extension lead feels hot to the touch, unplug the extension lead and the equipment straight away.
8. Remember that extension leads are only intended for temporary use
If you regularly use extension leads, it may be worth getting a registered electrician to install more sockets for you.
Need help PAT testing your extension leads? Hawkesworth is here to help
Extension leads should be PAT tested as part of your regular maintenance programme to make sure they are safe.
An engineer will be able to identify any faulty extension leads before they cause major problems.