Those McGill retractable worked very well. I used them for block heater in fire engines. We mounted them to the ceiling and used steel cables to restrict the movement of the retractable cords. Sometimes firemen get excited when they are going to fires and forget to unplug the engine block heaters.
If a cord is permanently wired, is it an extension cord? I don't think so. Are pendants not allowed? Why can't receptacles be installed on the lab stations? There are lots of good reasons to use a pendant rather than a desk top receptacle. Maybe the equipment cannot be fixed in place, the trucks would break a floor plug. No wall to install a receptacle.
I assume the NEC has rules governing the use of pendant receptacles which are not considered to be extension cords as 1 end is hard wired. CEC answer in an NEC forum.
"Retractable" is a word that doesn't appear in the NEC so I guess we would call these a pendant receptacle. I assume if it is a listed assembly, installed per the instructions, all of the rules are covered. (cord type, attachment, strain relief etc). I do understand the technical violation posed by this being cord and plug connected but in the grand scheme of things it is not something I would go out of my way to cite. I assume it is the fire marshal who is doing this. They are usually the "extension cord police" although the concern may be misplaced in this case. The attachment to the branch circuit is not where the hazard lies, all other things being equal (same reel, cord and receptacle).