In North America and Japan, special power cords are required for use with any equipment in a hospital or medical setting. Some other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark use similar recommendations, but they are not technically required by law. This article will focus on power cords required for medical equipment in North America, most notably the United States and Canada.

In Technical Terms

Under regulatory and safety committees in the US and Canada, hospital-grade power cord requirements are highlighted under the following sections:

  • UL 60601-1 and CAN/CSA C22.2 no. 21 (medical equipment standards)
  • UL 817 and CAN/CSA 22.2 no. 21 (power supply cord standards)
  • UL 498 and CAN/CSA 22.2 no. 42 (attachment plug and receptacle standards)

Additionally, they must conform to NEMA WD-6 and UL 817 by meeting the following requirements:

  1. The blade plugs must be made of solid brass, not folded brass.
  2. The blade plugs are nickel-plated.
  3. The plug includes a strain relief or similar device to reduce stress on internal components.
  4. The plug is marked with a “green dot” to signify it is hospital-grade.

These standards can apply to any cord that uses a NEMA 5-15, 5-20, 6-15, or 6-20 plug.


From left to right: NEMA 5-15, 5-20, 6-15, and 6-20

In Layman's Terms

So, what do all these technical terms really mean? Just how does a hospital-grade power cord compare to a regular one? For starters, hospital-grade cords have bigger plugs on the end. These larger plugs keep the smaller wires inside the cable further away from the outside of the cable, reducing the risk of electrical shock.

The blades on the connector ends need to be solid for a simple reason: hospitals are hard on cables. Oftentimes beds and other pieces of medical equipment are moved without being unplugged, putting strain on the power cords. Having blades made of solid metal reduces the chance of having them break off inside the wall outlets.

You may also be wondering why four different types of connectors are used. Each one of those four options has a different combination of amperage and voltage ratings:

  • 5-15: 15 amps/125 volts
  • 5-20: 20 amps/125 volts
  • 6-15: 15 amps/250 volts
  • 6-20: 20 amps/250 volts

Some offshoots with slightly different amperage do exist, but the options listed above are the most common. Like with any electrical device, make sure to check your equipment before picking up a cable to make sure you select the right kind.

As far as equipment goes, these cords are commonly used with devices that interact directly with patients, such as hospital beds. These devices are defined as “patient care equipment” used within “patient vicinity” in the regulations regarding hospital-grade power cords. However, hospital-grade cords are also used with lab equipment such as microscopes and centrifuges.

The last and arguably most important factor for hospital-grade power cords is the ground. These cables are usually touched by medical professionals and within touching distance of patients, some of whom could be severely injured if not killed by an electrical shock. Some hospital-grade power cords are clear-colored so it can be seen if the ground is damaged, although this is not required under federal regulations. Many of the cords are made in standard black or another solid color.

Buying Hospital-Grade Power Cords

ShowMeCables offers a number of hospital-grade power cords. Any hospital-grade cord will contain the words “hospital grade” in the name of the item, making them easy to tell apart from standard power cords. These cables are built to UL-listed regulations (United States) with each and every cable being tested after fabrication. On the off-chance wear-and-tear does eventually get the better of your cable, our products are also covered by lifetime warranty. Our stock cables are kept ready-to-ship and available with same-day shipping options. We also offer custom cable solutions for more detailed projects.

Have questions? You can reach our Sales team at 888-519-9505 or