The Steel Toe : Temporary Wiring Can be Hazardous

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Midstate Education and Service Foundation (formerly: Midstate Central Council, AFL-CIO)

Summary Statement

The temporary wiring on a construction site constitutes a significant workplace hazard. Here are some tips to reduce the danger.

Much construction work occurs before a permanent electrical system is in place, creating potential dangers. Shocks from temporary wiring, even if they are low voltage, can cause burns, a fall from a ladder or scaffold, or a fast, irregular heartbeat. Using ground fault protection (see attached article) is a mandatory safety measure. Here are some other suggestions.

Don't run temporary wiring (extension cords) in damp or wet areas; near gases or fumes that might make it deteriorate; in extremely hot or cold areas; over sharp edges or projections that could damage it; on sheet metal or lath; at pinch points; anywhere vehicles or equipment might run over it. Any of these situations increase the risk of damaging the wiring, and causing a shock or starting a fire.

What if you see exposed wiring? What about a switch that is not labeled so you don't know if it's off or on? Do electrical boxes have covers so that you're not exposed to live wiring? Any repair or change in temporary power should be done by a qualified electrician, not you.

Here are some shortcuts to avoid:
  • Don't remove the third prong (the ground) from a plug.
  • Don't force plugs into receptacles that don't match (they may be the wrong voltage; using the wrong voltage can cause a shock or fire).
  • If you use an adapter (3-prong plug to 2-hole outlet), make sure it is grounded.
  • Don't use household extension cords.
  • Don't splice flexible cords together, and don't run them through walls, floors, ceilings, doors, or windows.
  • Don't overload a power box. If the circuit breaker trips, there's too much plugged in. Find another outlet.
  • Don't interfere with safety lights. Never unplug them to "borrow" the outlet, and never run extra lines off the light. (If you trip the breaker, the lights will go out.)