Safety on the Job – Extension cords, power tools and grounding
Many of our workplaces utilize ground –fault circuit interruptors (GFCI) to protect workers using power tools from accidental shocks and injury. A recent ruling by WorksafeBC allows the use of assured grounding programs (AGP) in place of GFCI in workplaces. In order that you understand fully what the necessary components of such a program are , to ensure your safety on the job, I urge all members to read and become familiar with the following outline:
Assured Grounding Program (AGP)
The purpose of an Assured Grounding Program is to ensure that the hot wire, neutral wire, and in particular, ground wire of extension cords and power tool cords are connected to the proper terminals and are electrically continuous. This is done by performing a continuity test on every extension cord and power tool when it is first put into service, following repairs, and every three months. An Assured Grounding Program is described in the WorkSafeBC publication “Working Safely Around Electricity.”
An Assured Grounding Program contains the following four parts:
1. Worker training
All workers using extension cords and power tools under an Assured Grounding Program must be trained on the program.
2. Daily visual inspection
Extension cords and power tools must be checked daily for damage by the persons who will be using them. Any damage found must be repaired before the cord or tool is used. Damaged extension cords and power cords of tools must not be spliced. The cords can either be replaced or shortened to remove the damaged portion.
3. Continuity and polarity testing every three months
A qualified worker must test every extension cord and power tool for circuit continuity and correct polarity before they are used for the first time, following repairs, and during the months of January, April, July, and October. A qualified worker is a person who has been authorized by a supervisor to perform the task and who has received appropriate training.
4. Colour-coding extension cords and power tools
Extension cords and power tools that have been tested must be tagged with a coloured band about 10 centimetres (4 inches) from the male plug. Coloured electrical tape is suitable for this purpose. A different colour is required for each quarter of the year (see below). These colours are standard for all worksites using an Assured Grounding Program in British Columbia.
Red: January, February, March
White: April, May, June
Blue: July, August, September
Green: October, November, December
As an example, a new extension cord tested on February 8 will have a red tag at the male plug. The extension cord must be retested and marked with a white tag during April. The old coloured tag should be removed when the new colour tag is affixed.
A worksite may have a combination of GFCIs and an AGP. An AGP can be a good inspectional tool when used in conjunction with GFCIs.