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Power Strip Safety

Power strips are wonderful devices. They allow us to expand our electrical outlets and plug more devices into electrical power sources without the expense of adding more hard-wired outlets. However, the proper and safe use of power strips is often misunderstood. This lack of knowledge can lead to equipment damage, fire, and injury and/or death to people.

There are do’s and don’ts when it comes to power strip safety that you should know:

Do’s:

  • Plug the power strip directly into a wall outlet.
  • Make sure that you do not overload the power strip. If the power strip is rated for 15 amps, then you should only plug devices into it that limit the load to 12 amps (see OSHA Standard 1910.304 Table S-4). This means only plugging in items, such as computers, monitors, lamps, etc. According to an OSHA Letter of Interpretation on the topic, power strips are not designed for space heaters, refrigerators, or microwaves.
    • Many electrical devices are rated in watts. To convert watts to amps, divide watts by voltage.  
  • Ensure that the power strip is equipped with a circuit breaker.
  • Look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) symbol on the device, which indicates that it meets safety standards.

Don’ts:

  • Do not plug the power strip into another power strip or into an extension cord. This is known as piggy backing.
  • Do not permanently secure the power strip to building structures, tables, workbenches, or similar structures.
  • Do not route power strip cords through walls, ceilings, or floors.
  • Do not use power strips in wet/moist environments.
  • Do not assume that the power strip is also a surge protector. Inspect the packaging or manufacturer website to ensure it does have surge capabilities.
  • Do not use a power strip to power medical equipment as it is not certified for such use.

While power strips can be convenient, they do have limitations and can be dangerous at home or in the workplace. Make sure you read any information that comes with the device and if you still have questions, refer to the manufacturer website or call the manufacturer. You can also refer to OSHA Standards 1910.304 – “Wiring Design and Protection” and 1910.305 – “Wiring methods, components and equipment for general use” for further information. 

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