I'm from Ireland and spent a little time in the USA over the last few months and would have to agree that there is some rather scary misuse of powerstrips going on over there.
e.g. I saw a 15A powerstrip plugged into a 2-pin zipcord extension cord using a "grounding adaptor"... this was supplying power to a small window mounted A/C unit & computer equipment! ... out of curiosity I touched the zipcord and it was actually hot!
Anyway, the situation in the UK and Ireland is simlar in many ways, people have the same need to plug in large number of small appliences (computer equipment, mobile phone chargers, desk lamps, audio/video equipment etc) and we also use powerstrips to do this... however, there are a few differences... Powerstrips are always wired with cable that can carry at least 16Amps with a comfortable margin of safety. All of our plugs contain an individual fuse rated 3 to 13Amps. If you overload the strip, the fuse in the plug blows.
Also, because all plugs are fused, it's very difficult to overload a wall outlet as you would have to bypass the plug fuse.
Also, there is no such thing as a non-grounded plug, so all extension cords and other devices are fully grounded.
I've also seen office systems here that have fused outlets to prevent employees from plugging heaters, coffee makers and other heavy appliences into circuits that are intended for use with IT equipment. The outlets under their desks could be fused at 5amps.
(I know this kind of fusing arrangement would be more difficult in the USA as you guys don't have any sort of commonly available standard cartridge fuse. In the UK and Ireland because every applience has a fused plug, these small fuses are available easy and cheaply in any hardware store / corner shop.)
The tiny resetable breakers used on US powerstrips seem really cheap and nasty, I'd much rather see a simple fuse used.
Also, in an office system, why not use IEC connectors under the desks for computer equipment? IEC powerstrips are quite common place in Europe for server and studio equipment to avoid the risk of people connecting non-IT equipment to these circuits.
Non-standard UK plugs and socket outlets are also available for these kind of situations e.g. for use on UPS or filtered circuits.
[This message has been edited by djk (edited 02-26-2005).]