There's no denying the fact that electrical tape is a marvelous invention. It's strong, durable, weatherproof, and most importantly -- resistant to heat. This makes it the Swiss army knife for electricians, many of whom use it on a daily basis. But how does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) view electrical tape? Is it really safe to use?
One of the most common uses for electrical tape is covering small cuts and abrasions in electrical cords. If an area of an electrical cord has been worn to the point where the center wiring is visible, it can create a serious fire and electrocution hazard. Before covering it with electrical tape, though, there are a few things you should know.
First and foremost, OSHA doesn't have a specific standard prohibiting the use of electrical tape for this application. OSHA has several standards on electricity, but none of them cover electrical tape and using it to mend damaged power cables. With that said, a spokesperson for OSHA recently advised against this practice, citing Section 1926.401(a), which requires all electrical conductors and equipment to be approved. The spokesperson ads that applying too much electrical tape could alter the cord's flexibility, damaging it from the inside out.
In cases regarding "significant damage" to electrical cords, electrical tape should never be used. As noted by the OSHA spokesperson, the damaged cord should either be repaired or completely replaced when the outer jacket is penetrated.
"Repair or replacement of a flexible cord (depending on its gauge) is required when the outer jacket is deeply penetrated (enough to cause that part of the cord to bend more than the undamaged part) or penetrated completely, or when the conductors or their insulation inside are damaged," said a spokesperson for OSHA. "Two provisions of the standard prohibit the repair of the jacket of a worn or frayed flexible cord with electrical tape. Section 1926.403(a) requires that the cord be approved."
So, what can you use electrical tape for? That's a tough question to answer, because many of its commonly used applications aren't necessarily up to OSHA's code. However, it's still an excellent tool for making temporary quick fixes on various equipment, without fear of the tape losing its adhesiveness due to heat or the presence of moisture.