Safety Switches - First Line of Defense Against Electric Shock

Safety Switches - First Line of Defense Against Electric Shock

Safety Switches Save Lives

Electricity is such an integral part of our lives that it’s easy to forget how dangerous it can be.  While using a licensed electrician to perform all electrical work is probably the best way to stay safe, there is another simple yet effective tool that helps to protect you, your family and your tenants 100% of the time. 

The tool that helps to protect people in your home, investment property or commercial property is the safety switch, also known as Residual Current Device or RCD. 

If your electrician has recommended you install safety switches on all circuits it’s not because they want to generate more work. The fact is, safety switches save lives and protect people from electrical injuries. 


So, what exactly is a Safety Switch


A safety switch is a type of circuit breaker designed to protect us from electric shock. If a safety switch detects the electrical current is leaking somewhere, it turns the power off almost instantly to avoid electric shock or injury to a person.  

When it comes to the most important people in your life and of those you are responsible to protect, there’s no doubt you would want the electricity to automatically cut off if anything was to go wrong, reducing their chances of a serious injury, or worst case, death. 


How is a safety switch different to a circuit breaker? 

circuit breaker vs safety switch

Source: Energy Safe Victoria


It’s easy to confuse safety switches with circuit breakers and fuses. The fact is, they serve different purposes and are both essential components to ensure your property remains hazard free. 

Safety switches are designed to protect people from electrical hazards by disconnecting the electricity, while circuit breakers and fuses protect your wiring and appliances by cutting power when there is a fault or overloading of the system. While they look alike, safety switches have a test button whereas circuit breakers do not. 


What are the safety switch regulations?


While regulations may vary from state to state, since 1992 it's a legal requirement for all residential properties to have a safety switch on all power circuits. 

Since 2018 it has been a national requirement for all circuits in a new residential property, or an existing property that has additions made to an existing circuit, to have a safety switch installed. 

If you move into a rental property, we recommend you check safety switches are installed and working when you carry out the initial inspection within 48 hours of moving in.


Source: Worksafe QLD


Where is the safety switch? 


You can generally find the safety switch inside your switchboard or fuse box. This is the same place your electricity provider checks your meter reading. If the box isn’t immediately visible, check around the outside of the front of your home, or if you’re in a townhouse or apartment it might be inside the garage. 

There are many different manufacturers of safety switches so they don’t all look the same. 

Something else to bear in mind is for optimum safety, a safety switch should be installed on every circuit breaker in your home. That means a separate safety switch for your lights, powerpoints, hot water, air conditioning, oven and pool. 


How to test your safety switches


Before you can test your safety switches, you’ll need to locate the switches inside your switchboard, these should be marked separately for each circuit with a button marked 'T’ or Test'. The buttons may look different on different circuits within the switchboard. 


This video shows the correct testing process:

Once you press the Test button, the electricity should immediately power off for the relevant circuit. Before you do the test, it’s worthwhile to turn on lights and appliances (only those that are safe to do so) so you can confirm the safety switch has turned the power off. 

If the electricity remains on or takes longer than a millisecond to switch off, the safety switch is faulty. In this case, call your Electrician straight away. 

If the test confirms the switches are working properly, remember to turn them all back on after the test so they can continue protecting you. 


What to do when the safety switch works - and trips the power off


When the safety switch does its job, it turns off the power in your home because of a fault in your electrical circuits. 

It's important to investigate why. 

It might be caused by something as simple as an overloaded powerpoint, but it could also be a sign of a faulty appliance or circuit and should never be ignored. 

Take note in your switchboard which safety switch is turned to 'off' as this helps to identify the appliance or wiring that may have caused it. 

If you can identify the faulty appliance, unplug it before you turn the power back on and be sure to have it tested.  
When a safety switch trips, it’s an indicator that something is wrong and could happen again. Don’t ignore it. 
Safety switches are designed to cut off electricity to protect us from electric shock. Installing a safety switch is definitely not a DIY job and must be completed by a licensed electrician. 

If you don’t have safety switches in your home, investment property or commercial property we’d love to help make things safe and compliant for you. Call us today for a chat and a quote - 0400 767 534