November 3, 2021

How to use an extension lead safely

Plug socket with lots of plugs plugged into an extension

Extension leads are incredibly common in most homes for many reasons. From older homes with fewer wall sockets to modern appliances with short cables, reasons for needing to use an extension lead vary greatly.

Whilst you may consider using an extension lead safely is a no brainer, there’s a few dangers to look out for when using one.

Here are our top 10 tips for how to use an extension lead safely –

  • Firstly, the obvious one – ensure the extension lead is placed carefully to avoid damage or trip hazard. Taunt or stretched cables are a trip hazard so be sure that cables are flat on the floor and covered when possible.
  • Only use an extension lead that was already assembled when purchased.
  • Only use one socket extension lead per socket and never plug an extension cable into another extension cable.
  • Ideally an extension lead should be no more than 15 metres long. If using a cable drum, you should ensure it is completely unwound to avoid overheating.
  • Never overload an extension lead by plugging in appliance that exceed the maximum rating stated for the extension lead. Just because there’s four sockets available doesn’t mean it’s safe to use them all. This could case the plug in the wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
  • Check the current rating of an extension lead before plugging appliances into it. Most are rated at 13A but some are only rated 10A of less. This should be marked clearly on the back or underside of the extension lead. If not, you can refer to the manufacturers’ instructions. Never plug in appliances that total more than the current rating.
  • Overuse of multiway adapters or adapter blocks increases the risk of fire. Use a multiway bar extension lead rather than a block adaptor as this will put less strain on the wall socket. Be aware that some block adaptors do not have a fuse which increases the risk of overloading or fire.
  • Look out for damaged cables, this can happen overtime if leads are continuously walked over, bent at the same point or stored badly.
  • If multiple tools are plugged into an extension lead, the leads can become tangled which can lead to one of the conductors failing which could cause danger. Ensure where possible leads are kept separately and untangled.
  • Finally, it goes without saying, if you are using an extension lead and notice the smell of hot or burning plastic, see melted plastic, sparks or smoke coming from a plug or appliance, scorch marks, or damaged frayed leads with coloured leads showing you should stop using the extension lead immediately before this leads to a serious injury or fire.

If you do find yourself regularly needing to plug in additional appliances and regularly rely on extension leads and adaptors it’s important to always ensure you are using the extension lead safely. You may also want to consider contacting a registered electrician to install additional sockets to meet your needs for a more permanent solution.

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