OSHA Letter of Interpretaion – Repair of Extension Cords

June 30th, 2010

We receive inquiries almost weekly regarding whether or not you can repair extension cords.  Below is a Letter of Interpretation addressing this question.

April 12, 2010

Letter # 20090606-9144

Re: Whether an employer can repair an extension cord under 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K.

Question: Under what circumstances may an employer located in Minnesota repair a damaged extension cord under 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K?

Answer: Paragraph 1926.405(g)(2)(iii) provides:

Flexible cords shall be used only in continuous lengths without splice or tap. Hard service flexible cords No. 12 or larger may be repaired if spliced so that the splice retains the insulation, outer sheath properties, and usage characteristics of the cord being spliced.

This standard permits you to repair an extension cord, under the conditions set forth, provided the cord is a flexible cord that is No. 12 or larger.

Additionally, 1926.403(a) requires all electrical conductors used by employers on a construction site to be “approved.” Section 1926.449 defines “approved” as:

Acceptable to the authority enforcing this subpart. The authority enforcing this subpart is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health. The definition of “acceptable” indicates what is acceptable to the Assistant Secretary of Labor, and therefore approved within the meaning of this subpart.

Section 1926.449 defines “acceptable” as:

An installation or equipment is acceptable to the Assistant Secretary of Labor, and approved within the meaning of this subpart K:
(a) If it is accepted, or certified, or listed, or labeled, or otherwise determined to be safe by a qualified testing laboratory capable of determining the suitability of materials and equipment for installation and use in accordance with this standard; or
(b) With respect to an installation or equipment of a kind which no qualified testing laboratory accepts, certifies, lists, labels, or determines to be safe, if it is inspected or tested by another Federal agency, or by a State, municipal, or other local authority responsible for enforcing occupational safety provisions of the National Electrical Code, and found in compliance with those provisions; or
(c) With respect to custom-made equipment or related installations which are designed, fabricated for, and intended for use by a particular customer, if it is determined to be safe for its intended use by its manufacturer on the basis of test data which the employer keeps and makes available for inspection to the Assistant Secretary and his authorized representatives.

Assuming the extension cord you are repairing was initially “acceptable,” §1926.403(a) precludes you from using a repaired cord if the cord is significantly altered as a result of the repair. For example, you are precluded from using a repaired cord if the repair changes the cord’s original flexibility.1 As you may be aware, the State of Minnesota operates its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved by Federal OSHA. Under this plan, the Minnesota Department of Labor promulgates and enforces occupational safety and health standards under authority of State law, and posts them on its website at http://www.dli.mn.gov/mnosha.asp. Although some of Minnesota’s standards are different, both its standards and interpretations must be at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s. For information on Minnesota’s Electrical standard and its enforcement, we suggest that you contact:

James Krueger, Compliance Director
443 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155-4307
PH: (651) 284-5050
TOLL FREE: (877) 470-6742
FAX: (651) 284-5741

Sincerely,

Bill Parsons, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction


1 See Letter to Mr. Dennis Vance, Using electrical tape to repair minor damage to the outer jacket of an extension cord (Dec. 16, 1998). [back to text]

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