Any office has its share of electrical issues. No system or design is perfect, even a well-maintained office can have its problems and electrical issues can range from minor to catastrophic. While the former can typically be managed in-house, you may need expert help to solve the major problems. An even better approach is to keep such problems to a minimum with regular inspections of your electrical systems by an authorised agency such as phs Compliance.
Preventing issues or emergencies in the first place is always the best option rather than trying to solve them after they have appeared. Here are five of the most common electrical problems that occur in offices and some advice on how to handle them.
- Circuit Breaker Tripping
A section or all of your office may experience a power shutdown due to the tripping of a circuit breaker. This happens when there is a higher than normal current flow caused by a short circuit, overload, or various other reasons. It could be a temporary issue in which case you can open the power panel box of the main distribution box (or the box covering that section) and look for a breaker in the off position.
Once you located the breaker, turn it back on. If it doesn’t stay in the ‘on’ position, or trips again after a while, this indicates an underlying issue and you’ll need to call in a qualified electrician. They can check for any fault or short circuit with the wiring or a device you may be using. If they determine that a faulty device is causing the tripping, you need to disconnect the appliance and have it repaired or replace it.
Electrical overloading can be a problem in some busy offices. In simple terms, overloading means drawing more power than the rated voltage of the circuit. Typically, when a business scales up, the magnitude of work increases and more machines and appliances are installed in an office. However, the wiring may not be prepared to handle the increased amount of electric load.
This can cause damage to the wiring itself, besides frequent power shutdown issues and even fire. The existing circuit must be inspected by qualified technicians to make sure that the load capacity meets the total power demand of computer equipment and other devices used in the workplace.
An electric surge is a momentary increase in the flow of electricity. It often lasts for as little as a few microseconds. However, the damage it can cause to electrical devices and machinery can be massive as it results in excessively high voltages and currents. A surge can have various causes, such as short circuit, equipment faults, or lightning strikes.
You can prevent surges from damaging any equipment by using Surge Protection Devices (SPDs). An SPD at the entry point of the main power supply will protect all equipment in the entire office. Alternatively, compact SPD devices may be used with power plugs in small setups to protect individual devices, particularly those that are more valuable.
- Electric Shocks
Your employees may accidentally get an electric shock from an exposed live wire or a conducting part of the device. Shocks can be extremely dangerous, so it is important to ensure that there are no wires with faulty insulation in the office. Also, all personnel must observe safety precautions while working with equipment.
All equipment and power points should have the earth connection intact. Moreover, the electric circuit of the area must have an ELCB (Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker) installed to protect people from any electric shock that occurs despite taking these precautions. However, if an electric shock occurs even when there is an ELCB installed, the ELCB could be defective and should be immediately checked by a qualified professional.
- Electrical Fires
Electrically-induced fires can occur in an office due to faulty insulation, short circuits, and overloads. It starts with a spark that can ignite an easily combustible material nearby and from there the flames could spread to a larger area. It is important to ensure proper insulation of wires in the entire circuit, and replace wires with damaged insulation as soon as possible. Standard wires with fire-retardant insulation should be used and copper wires are better than aluminium ones as the latter encourages oxidation, and so carries a higher risk of fire.
Though the above information can be useful in handling some common types of electrical emergencies and defects, it is always a good idea have qualified professionals regularly check and maintain electrical systems. That way, you will promote better workplace safety, reducing the risks of electric shocks, fires and other issues to close to zero. As a secondary motivation, you could also avoid enormous financial losses caused by damage and penalties due to non-compliance.