Common electrical faults in the workplace

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Common electrical faults in the workplace

Electrical safety is extremely important for all workplaces, even those that may not seem very high risk for electrical hazards.

Every place of work has electrical appliances and machinery that are powered through the mains electricity and the property’s electrical wiring. Poor maintenance and improper use can cause them to malfunction and result in fires, electric shocks, or electrocution.

Read on to find out more about the most common electrical faults in the workplaces, their causes, how you can minimise them, and much more:


Compared to industrial properties, most office environments are considered low-risk when it comes to electrical hazards. While this may be a fact, it doesn’t eliminate the risk and make the hazards any less significant.

Some of the most common electrical faults that you may notice around your workplace include:


Sparking is an obvious red flag that indicates an issue with your property’s electrics. If you notice any visible sparks coming from any electrical appliance, switch, or socket, you need to contact a professional electrician and have it checked immediately.

If it is possible and safe, the electrical appliance or socket that is causing the sparks should be switched off or the power source should be cut until a professional has checked it and deemed it safe to use again.


New appliances may often produce a strange odour the first few times that they are used. This is expected and nothing to worry about. However, if the weird odour persists, it could be a sign that something is wrong either with the appliance or the outlet that it is attached to.

This odour smells like burning plastic and is usually a sign of faulty wiring. Make sure you consult an electrician and refrain from using the appliance and outlet until they are checked properly.

Buzzing sound

Electricity is often associated with a buzzing and humming sound which, in most cases, can be a sign that something is wrong with the wiring.

Electricity isn’t supposed to make any sound, and if it does, it could be happening due to loose connections or frayed wires preventing the electrical current from flowing smoothly.

Circuit breakers tripping repeatedly

The main purpose of circuit breakers is to control and monitor the electricity running through your property. They ensure that everything is working as it should, and whenever a fault is detected, they “trip” to protect the electrical appliances and installations from damage.

The issue arises when the circuit breakers start tripping too often. This mainly happens due to overloading, such as when too many high-power appliances are being used at once.

To check what the issue is, try switching off the appliances and see if the circuit breaker continues to trip repeatedly. If it doesn’t, it’s because you are using more power that exceeds the consumer unit’s amp rating. The solution is upgrading the consumer unit with a higher capacity.

If the circuit breakers continue to trip even after unplugging all the appliances, the issue is most likely with the wiring and needs to be checked and rectified professionally.

Flickering or dimming lights

Light fixtures draw a small amount of power, and any flickering or dimming that you notice will likely be caused by a faulty circuit.

If the issue is with a single light, it is best to replace it to determine the cause. If it happens with more than one light, it may be a sign of a fault with the circuit or wiring.


The main causes of the faults mentioned above are faulty or damaged wiring, unsafe installations, and misuse of equipment:

Faulty or damaged wiring

Most electrical faults in the workplace are due to faulty and damaged wiring. Like all electrical installations, wiring is prone to wear and tear and gets damaged over time as it ages.

Frayed cables, exposed wiring, and loose connections are electrical hazards that must be attended to at the earliest or they can cause electric shocks and fires.

Overloading circuits

Workplaces are filled with electrical appliances, from computers to printers, scanners, photocopiers, microwaves, and coffee machines.

If too many appliances are plugged into a circuit at once, the wires may heat up and turn into a hazard. It may lead to tripping, sparks, burning odours, and even electrical fires.

Use of extension leads

Extension leads are convenient gadgets that are a must-have in every workplace. They allow you to plug several appliances into a wall socket and keep all of them running at the same time.

If not used properly, they can result in sparks and electrical fires, both of which are serious safety issues. Overloading is the most common and dangerous issue with using extension leads. Since they have long cables, they can also turn into a tripping hazard.

Improper grounding

Grounding is necessary for every electrical equipment, appliance, or device in order to take the extra electricity into the earth.

Lack of proper grounding is an electrical hazard that has an impact on human safety, can start fires, and cause electric shocks. It may also be dangerous for your electronics and can damage them for good.

Misuse of equipment

Misusing electrical equipment not only affects their quality and life but can also be a serious safety hazard.

Some common examples include forcing a plug into an outlet that does not fit or yanking the cables out of the sockets. Such mannerisms are the main reason for electricity-related accidents and injuries in the workplace.

Poor electrical safety training

Proper electrical safety training is key in ensuring that such faults are minimised and the workplace is a safe space for everyone to work in.

All the employees and staff must be trained on how to use electrical equipment and the correct action to take in case of a fault so that the damage is minimised.


According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), every year around 100 accidents involving electric shocks and burns are reported in the UK, out of which approximately 30 are fatal.

While some electrical injuries may result in loss of life, others are non-fatal but can cause permanent damage and severe injuries.

As an employer or owner of a business, it is your responsibility under the Electricity at Work Regulations to protect your employees, staff, clients, customers, and visitors from such safety hazards.

The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) are based on the rules regarding electrical safety in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and apply to all aspects of electrical use within the workplace.

According to the regulations, the responsible individuals must:

  • Have the electrical systems constructed and installed in a way that they are compliant with the law,
  • Conduct periodic electrical inspections and testing through a certified electrician,
  • Have all the electrical appliances on the premises tested under Portable Appliance Testing (PAT),
  • Teach their employees general housekeeping and train them on how to safely work with electricity.


Periodic electrical inspections are carried out to test the overall health of the electrical system and make the required changes to ensure continued safety and compliance.

The testing is carried out by a trained professional who does a visual inspection followed by a thorough report to:

  • Check for any faulty electrical installations,
  • Check for obsolete and outdated installations,
  • Identify electric shocks and fire hazards,
  • Check whether earthing or bonding is necessary,
  • Highlight any immediate dangers and fix them as a priority with the client’s approval.

During the visual inspection, the certified electrician looks for any obvious faults and issues, such as the ones listed at the start of this article, by checking various components of the electrical system including the consumer unit, sockets, switches, light fittings, electrical cables, earthing and bonding, and extension leads.

After everything is checked, the observations are recorded and recommendations are provided in a Visual Inspection Report (VIR).

The visual inspection is followed by a more detailed inspection, at the end of which an electrical installation condition report (EICR) is generated.

The EICR helps identify any defects or issues that could not be identified during a visual inspection and involves the testing of various circuits and highlighting any issues.

Once the EICR check is completed, a certificate is provided which classifies the condition of the installation into three codes:

  • Code C1: indicating that danger exists and immediate action is required.
  • Code C2: indicating that, while the observation is not considered to be dangerous at the moment, it could become a real and immediate danger if a fault or other foreseeable event was to occur.
  • Code C3: indicating that, while the observation is not considered to be dangerous at the moment, improvements would contribute greatly to the overall health of the system.

As a business or commercial space owner, you are required to carry out a periodic electrical inspection at regular intervals, which can range from 3 to 5 years.

If you are a landlord, you must ensure that your rented commercial property is safe for use and up to electrical standards and regulations, which is why the inspections must be carried out every 5 years or whenever there is a change in occupancy.


According to BS 7671, periodic electrical inspection and testing must be carried out by a skilled person who possesses the right knowledge and experience to perceive the risks and minimise the hazards.

The competent individual must have a formal qualification and must know how to operate electrical instruments to carry out the tests.

To ensure that all your electrical work meets the current regulations and you receive a certificate of compliance, you must choose a registered electrician to do it for you.

A competent electrician will not only carry out the work as per UK regulations but will also hold liability for any damages or unexpected incidents happening during the inspection.


Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)  is a routine inspection to test items that are not part of the fixed wiring and do not fall under the electrical testing of the premises.

Appliances that fall under this category have a cable and plug, can be disconnected from their power source, and can easily be moved.

Some common examples include desktops, laptops, printers, photocopiers, refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, portable heaters, table lamps, phone chargers, and extension cords.

PAT testing is carried out by a professional electrician at least once a year, depending on the age and condition of the equipment and how often it is used.


When it comes to electrical safety in the workplace, it is very important to train all employees on how to use electrical appliances and installations.

Here are some of the best tips to follow for electrical safety in the workplace:

  • Keep an eye out for obvious visual signs such as damages to the cables, plugs, and wall outlets, burn marks on the equipment, plugs, and sockets, and trapped, knotted, or frayed cables.
  • Switch off all appliances at the end of the working day.
  • Avoid using extension leads and overloading sockets.
  • Keep flammable materials and water away from electrics.
  • Stop using and disconnect faulty equipment as soon as you suspect a fault.
  • Provide a clearly identifiable switch near the fixed machinery to cut off the power supply in case of an electrical fault or emergency.
  • Ensure all the appliances and machines in the office are double-insulated and properly grounded.
  • Make sure all appliances are in well-ventilated areas for proper heat dispersion.
  • Ensure the fuses and consumer unitsare installed correctly and functional at all times.
  • Install commercial surge protection
  • Remove any electrical cords from high-traffic areas to eliminate the risk of tripping and damage to the cords.
  • Know and follow the course of action in case of an electric shock.
  • Know how to operate a manual fire alarm system in case of a fire.
  • Call the fire and rescue services immediately in case of an electrical fire.


If you are looking for a registered electrician for the installation, maintenance, inspection, and rewiring of your property’s electrical system, look no further.

Calder Electrical offers a wide range of services to meet the demands of our clients. All our work is fully insured and we work to meet the standards set to us by the NICEIC to make sure all your electrical installations meet the current regulations and all the notifiable work is signed off by the local authorities.

We have been undertaking electrical work since 1976 and are specialists in the field. If you have unplanned issues within your home or business, we can provide a call-out service to rectify and solve any problems.

Anything from circuits tripping to loss of power, broken items that need repairing, distribution board and consumer unit upgrades, surge protection installation services, and much more.

Our team can generate a Visual Inspection Report (VIR) to identify anything visual that does not comply with the standards or looks unsafe, as well as a full Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) where we will identify and test each circuit to make sure they are not deteriorating and are safe for use within the current standards and regulations set by the BS 7671.

We can also provide PAT testing of appliances to make sure that any items such as kettles, computers, and microwaves are safe for use in the home and workplace.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 3001 to make sure your electrical installations are safe and fault-free!