Safety precautions for removing a stuck ground pin?
October 22, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Safety precautions for removing a stuck ground pin?

The ground pin from an extension cord has broken off and is stuck in my wall outlet. It's protruding enough that I could probably get it out with pliers.

Is there an adequately safe way that I can do this? If I shut off the power at the breaker and use insulated pliers, will that be enough? Is there any risk from other circuits (or even neighboring apartments) connected to the same ground?

This is in the US. Other misc. stuff that may or may not matter: the building is from ~1960; we do have three-prong outlets throughout the apartment. (I haven't tested them to see if they're grounded properly. Not that I have any reason to be suspicious; just haven't checked.)
posted by equalpants to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Assuming USA wall outlets, given your LA location. Grab it with a pair of pliers and pull. As long as the pliers can't enter the blade sockets with live current, you are fine.
posted by jet_silver at 8:35 PM on October 22, 2012

Turning the outlet off at the breaker is good practice. Honestly, I'd probably just use insulated pliers and yank, but always a good idea to flip the breaker first.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:42 PM on October 22, 2012

In theory you're safe pulling the ground pin, as it's not directly connected to current. Out of an abundance of caution, I'd find the breaker for that outlet and put it in the off position. Once you've done that, you could do about anything with that outlet, even replace it, with no risk of electrocution (provided no one tampers with the breaker while you're working on it).
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:44 PM on October 22, 2012

I would just grab it with insulated pliers. Best practice is to turn off the breaker to that outlet (or to the whole house if you can't figure out which one that is) and *then* pull it out with insulated pliers. If it is ungrabbable, replace the outlet or have a professional do it for you.
posted by Scientist at 9:38 PM on October 22, 2012

Best practice is the only good practice. Turn off the breaker before sticking needle nose pliers anywhere near a socket. Double-check the outlet is unpowered with a line tester, before working on it. You could very easily slip the tips into the live socket and either electrocute yourself or cause a short-circuit that could lead to a fire or burned-out breaker. Better safe than dead.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

It should go without saying, but throw the extension cord away after you're done. And I would check other extension cords in the house, especially those of the same type/vintage, to see whether they have lose ground pins as well.
posted by zachlipton at 10:08 PM on October 22, 2012

Thanks everyone. I turned off all the breakers, used insulated pliers and gloves and retrieved it without incident.
posted by equalpants at 10:48 PM on October 22, 2012

This advice is really very over cautious, which is kind of typical. Assuming you are correctly identifying ground, it is the exact thing that you touch all the time when you touch the metal chassis of a stove, or computer, or just about anything else that has a three prong plug. There is zero call for turning off the breaker, zero call for insulated pliers, zero call for gloves.

Now, if you have somehow misidentified ground, that could be a problem :)
posted by Chuckles at 8:31 PM on October 24, 2012

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