Is it time to give your office an electrical health check?

Keeping everyone in your workplace safe can be a daunting job. When it comes to the electrics, here are a few tell-tale warning signs to look out for.

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Sound planning. Good people. Drive. Determination. Just some hallmarks of a successful business. Plus, perhaps, a certain spark…

The right kind of spark, obviously. The kind that comes from working in a competitive industry. Not the kind that comes from out-of-date, poorly maintained electrics.

 

But do you know what shape your electrical installations and appliances are in?

Perhaps you’re new to the company, or you’ve only just taken on the responsibility for health and safety. Perhaps the business has just relocated. Perhaps your predecessors weren’t as assiduous as they might have been about record-keeping.

 

Keeping everyone in your workplace safe can be a daunting job. When it comes to the electrics, here are a few tell-tale warning signs to look out for.

 

The floor’s a snake-pit

 

If your office floor is populated with trailing cables, you’ve got too few sockets to run your appliances. Sure, the odd one or two extension leads are probably okay, if you’re only using them occasionally – but as a permanent fixture? Not good practice.

 

You don’t know when your systems were last tested

 

This might be because your business has just moved into new premises, or maybe whoever looked after the electrics before was a bit too relaxed about it. Definitely a sign to have everything tested – and to start keeping clear records!

 

You’re experiencing frequent power outages

 

Typically, this is a sign of an overloaded system. The circuitry on your premises can’t cope with what’s being asked of it.

 

The portable appliance testing (PAT) labels on plugs are out of date – or there aren’t any

 

This doesn’t mean that the appliances are definitely faulty, but regular PAT testing helps to provide certainty about the safety of your equipment.

 

There’s no test date on your fuse boxes (consumer units)

 

As with the lack of up-to-date PAT labels on plugs, this doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a fault, but it does mean there’s a chance the consumer unit hasn’t been checked. Prevent mishaps, and ensure that your premises won’t be plunged into darkness, by booking a test – and making sure the date is noted!

 

There are sockets that don’t work

 

This could be – best-case scenario – because they’re connected to a circuit that’s no longer used and has been switched off. Worst-case scenario – it could be because your wiring is faulty. Best practice? Arrange a test to make sure everything is safe.

 

The lights flicker and dim

 

This could be caused by electrical storms, and as such may not be a serious problem. However, another possible cause could be working your electrics too hard and overloading the wiring. If it’s a wiring issue, it needs to be fixed.

 

There are sparks, or a fizzing sound, when you plug something in (or unplug it)

 

This is known as arcing, and is absolutely to be avoided. It’s caused when electrical current jumps a gap in a circuit, or between two electrodes. This is potentially very dangerous – stop using the socket and the appliance, and arrange to have the circuit tested.

 

The sockets are warm

 

While a hard-working socket might be slightly warm to the touch, a hot socket is a sign of danger. The socket is either overloaded, or not wired in correctly. Unplug everything from the socket and arrange a test.

 

There’s no emergency lighting

 

Safety lighting needs to be provided where appliances need to be shut down or made safe if there’s a power failure. In most offices this would be in kitchens, computer rooms etc, but in a factory or larger unit more extensive safety lighting may be required. Escape lighting must also be installed to allow the evacuation of the building in an emergency.

 

It’s an older building

 

An older building may have its own charm, but (and this goes for our houses too) older office buildings weren’t designed for today’s proliferation of electrically-powered technology. The older the building, the greater the challenges. Make sure your electrical installations and appliances are checked regularly.

 

There’s been a water leak

 

We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: water and electricity don’t mix. If it’s a one-off incident you might be able to kill the power and let natural evaporation do its work. If it’s a persistent or repeating problem, you’ll need to make sure any leaks are fixed.

 

The cabling is damaged and the inner wires are exposed

 

Wires are enclosed for a reason – to minimise the chance of an electric shock. Exposed wires can also cause a fire, and you may see evidence of a drop in performance of the appliances affected. Switch off the appliance immediately, and make sure frayed cables are replaced.

 

The electricity bills are a bit high

 

It’s a common complaint these days, but it could be that the age of your electrical installations and appliances isn’t helping your energy-saving efforts. Generally, newer systems and tech are more energy-efficient than older ones.

 

There’s a burning smell

 

The smell of an electrical fire is very distinct. You are in immediate danger if you smell burning plastic or something fishy. Overloaded circuits, loose wires, frayed cords, damaged wire insulation – all these are common causes of overheating and electrical fires. If there’s a fishy smell or a burning plastic smell in the office, cut the power and check for electrical faults.

 

Ask the experts

 

There is plenty here to look out for, but happily there’s one easy answer to all these issues: call an electrician! If you’re experiencing any of these problems, or you want to put your mind at rest about electrical safety in your workplace, Excel Electrical are here to help.

 

Contact us at 01508 488007 or email enquiries@excelelectrical.co.uk to discuss the issue, and make an appointment for one of our friendly, highly qualified, experienced engineers to visit your offices and conduct an electrical health check.

 

Excel Electrical: the power is in your hands.

 

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