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Electrical sparks – what to do when you see them

Electricity is all around us, and it’s all too easy to forget just how dangerous it can be. You might be hoping for sparks on a first date, but you certainly don’t want to see them in your factory.

And sparks don’t just appear for no reason – they could signal a more significant electrical hazard or fire risk.

So if you see sparks, take action. The last thing you want is an electrical fault damaging your machinery, a fire breaking out on the factory floor, or worse, a fatality caused by a severe electric shock.

Possible causes

Electrical sparking can occur for several reasons, and understanding what is causing your sparks can help you deal with it quickly and safely. Some of the most common causes include:

Faulty electrical equipment: Old, worn-out equipment or machinery, loose connections, or exposed wiring are more prone to electrical faults.

Overloading your circuits: If your electrical circuits are overloaded with too much current, it can cause wires to overheat.

Damaged insulation: Damaged insulation on electrical wires or cables can cause an electrical arc.

Moisture: Water or other liquids can create a conductive path for electricity, leading to sparking.

Human error: Electrical sparking could be caused by human error, such as poor installation or a failure to follow safety procedures.

Power surges: Your sparks could be the result of a power surge caused by lightning, electrical faults, or other factors.

What to do if you see electrical sparking

Don’t take risks with electricity. If you see sparking in your factory, act quickly. Here are the steps you should take to keep your teams safe and prevent sparking leading to a serious incident.

Identify the source of the sparks: If possible, identify the source of the sparks. Is it from machinery or equipment? Is it from exposed wiring or electrical panels? This will help you isolate the problem so you can make the area safe until your electrical contractor arrives.

Turn off the power: Once you've identified the source of the sparks, turn off the power to the affected area immediately. This will help prevent any further electrical arcing and minimise the risk of fire or electric shock injury.

Alert employees and evacuate if necessary: Make colleagues aware of the hazard and evacuate them if necessary. Look for any signs of fire and call emergency services if you cannot contain the fire yourself.

Call an electrical contractor: Don't try to fix the problem if you aren’t a qualified electrician – electrical hazards can be deadly. Contact an electrical contractor immediately to assess the damage and make any necessary repairs.

Inspect and repair damaged equipment: Once your electrical contractor has identified the root cause and carried out any remediations, inspect your equipment and machinery to check for damage.

Common electrical faults

Electrical sparking may be the result of a previously unnoticed electrical fault. It’s worth understanding some of the faults you might experience to minimise the risk of them leading to major issues. Here are some of the most common:

Open circuit faults: Open circuit faults occur when a component has insufficient voltage to power it correctly, leading to part or whole circuits shutting down. The cause is often open coils or loose connections.

Short circuit faults: Short circuit faults tend to occur when the insulation around a conductor deteriorates. The electrical current is either grounded or routed to an incorrect conductor, blowing a fuse or triggering a circuit breaker into action.

Voltage issues: All electrical equipment has a voltage setting. If the voltage exceeds the limit – causing a surge – it can overheat components within the equipment. If voltage is insufficient – known as a sag or dip - it can prevent equipment from operating as it should.

Mechanical failure: If a major piece of equipment fails, it's likely caused by a component reaching its end of life or a defect. Excessive heating or corrosion can cause this to occur way sooner than expected.

Systems failure: Industrial computers and AI ensure operational efficiency but rely heavily on electricity. If they are constantly working, the systems can quickly overheat.

How to minimise the risk of electrical faults

Prevention is always better than cure, and while it isn’t always possible to mitigate risk completely, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of electrical faults.

Get electrical equipment installed by qualified professionals

Anything that involves electricity should be installed by qualified electricians or electrical contractors. Lighting, wiring, circuit boards, sockets and switches, electrical equipment and machinery, wired alarm systems – anything that requires power. Don’t cut corners on installation – you could be putting your factory and your employees at risk.

Inspect, test and service regularly

Electrical installations need regular testing, inspecting, and servicing. Invest in a proactive maintenance programme and ensure your installations remain safe and compliant. Replace damaged or faulty components, and keep your equipment clean and correctly maintained.

Train employees on electrical safety

Provide employees with training on electrical safety procedures and ensure they report any electrical issues immediately. Make sure there is always someone on site who knows how to shut off power in an emergency. Provide adequate fire suppression equipment.

Work with AES

If something goes wrong with the power in your factory, you’ll want an electrical contractor you can trust to get you back up and running quickly and safely.

AES offers all the electrical contracting services you would expect, coupled with specialist services specifically for manufacturing businesses.

We can detect and rectify electrical faults, conduct machine risk assessments and inspections, and install, maintain and service any electrical equipment. We are also CompEx accredited, allowing us to work in hazardous areas.

We can scale our services to meet the needs of your business, from ongoing planned maintenance and fault repair to machinery installation and factory relocation.

And we provide expert advice and recommendations on energy reduction, control and automation, and safety compliance.

Contact our friendly team to discuss your electrical requirements.

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