Electrical Extension Cords by Harry J. Oster, Senior Fire Safety Specialist

Extension cords are safe for use, when used properly, and when listed/approved by Underwriters Laboratories (look for the “UL” mark) or Intertek logo (“ETL”).  Extension cords are intended for use on a temporary basis only, and are designed for use with computers, certain small laboratory equipment, home workshop tools and portable appliances. Electrical extension cords are to be directly connected to a permanently installed electrical outlet only, not through a power strip or other non-permanent receptacle, and they must be polarized or grounded. 
Electrical extension cords are not to be:

  • Substituted for permanent wiring;
  • Interconnected (daisy chained) with another extension cord or power strip;
  • Permanently secured to any part of a building or stationary object;
  • Installed through walls, windows, ceilings, or across walking areas of floors;
  • Subjected to environmental or physical damage, or
  • Used on high-power loads such space heaters, microwave ovens or refrigerators.

coiled cordThe improper use of electrical extension cords has been cited by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) during weekly laboratory inspections.  If you have been using extension cords in place of permanent wiring please contact EH&S for an assessment of your laboratory’s wiring set-up, or place a work order with Facilities to install additional outlets in your laboratory or office area.


NOTE: Cords should not be used in a coiled position, as this can create a build-up of heat and can lead to a fire.

Sustainability by Keith Bottum, Hazardous Materials Specialist

The most successful and sustainable programs make operational, financial and environmental sense. This is why the University’s solvent recycling initiative continues to thrive almost 15 years after its inception in the Departments of Pathology and Dermatopathology. With the subsequent establishment of solvent recycling at the Morningside campus in 2008, the University continues to recycle and reuse thousands of gallons of waste xylene, ethanol and acetone annually, which diverts these wastes from incineration, saves money on purchase and disposal, and improves operational efficiency. Many solvents can be recycled multiple times, saving valuable research funds and maximizing environmental gains.

Solvent recycling is the cornerstone of the University’s sustainable laboratory initiative. EH&S hopes more laboratories will take advantage of the many benefits of solvent recycling. CBG Biotech, the University’s supplier of solvent recycling equipment, now offers a compact, bench-top recycling system to allow laboratories with smaller quantities of waste solvents to participate in the program, typically providing a very attractive return on investment. Any laboratory interested in turning solvent waste (e.g., acetone, hexane, xylene, ethanol and ethyl acetate) into re-useable product - and saving time, money and the environment in the process should contact a Hazardous Materials Specialist at hazmat@columbia.edu.

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