Safety Switches (RCD’s) Save Lives.

Posted on 5th April 2016 by Kristine Dawson
safety switches

There is no doubt that safety switches save lives, however approximately 15 Australians are still killed each year due to electrical accidents in the home and over 300 people are hospitalised.  25 years ago it became mandatory to have Safety Switches installed in Queensland in all new builds and also where electric circuits are altered or added.  

Unfortunately only 65% of Australian homes have safety switches installed today. Of these only about 29% are only on power outlet circuits and 39% on power and light circuits. The reality is an electrical fault could occur on any circuit, including lighting, power, hot water, oven, stove and air conditioning. To be fully protected most homes should have four safety switches installed. 

What is a Safety Switch?

A safety switch is a device that quickly switches off the electricity if an electrical fault is detected. A safety switch minimises the risk of injuries and deaths due to contact with electricity.  Also, known as an RCD (Residual Current Device), the safety switch detects the moment a circuit is leaking and stops the flow of electricity in a fraction of a second. To put it in perspective, if a person was to touch a bare, live wire, the flow is stopped so fast the person would not even get a shock.  That is why Safety Switches are so important!

How do I know if I already have a Safety Switch? 

Many homes have circuit breakers installed, however these only protect against overloading and short circuits.  It is a good start but not enough to protect someone against electrocution. A safety switch looks similar to a circuit breaker but can be recognised by the blue button marked ‘test’ on the front. To check if your safety switch is working, you can use this button. Press the button and it should immediately trip the electrical circuit that it is connected to. The switch then needs to be reset. If it appears not to be working then contact a qualified electrician who can either repair the existing switch or replace it for a new one. A quick test every couple of months is all you need. 

Different types of Safety Switches 

There are four different types of safety switches.

Powerpoint Safety switches – These are fitted to particular power points and are ideal for protecting appliances in areas such as bathrooms or workshops. 

Portable Safety Switches – These can be attached to a power board or extension lead to protect the appliances that are connected to them (i.e using a tool outside meaning it is not protected by the meter box safety switch)

Meter Box Mounted – These are mounted next to circuit breakers in the meter box or switch board. 

Combination safety switches and circuit breakers – These will prevent electrical shocks as well as protecting electrical circuits and appliances. These are a popular option for existing meter boxes with limited space.

Unsure which type you need? Give us a call, we will come to your home and do a free safety assessment. 

Nuisance tripping, faults and resetting safety switches

We get weekly calls from people whose safety switch has tripped, disconnecting the power, asking us how to reconnect the power and also wondering what the cause was.  Often moisture has gotten into the circuit or it could also be lightning or a temporary fault. Resetting the switch should turn the power supply back on. 

If you cannot reset a safety switch after it has tripped you may have a faulty appliance connected to the circuit or there may be a wiring fault. In this case, switch off the appliance you think is at fault and now try to reset the safety switch. Keep trying this until you locate the faulty appliance. 

If you are still unable to reset the safety switch or locate the fault, give us a call.  

Buying and Selling a Property

Every home that has been built since 1992 in Queensland should have a safety switch installed as per government legislation, however it is important that this is not taken for granted and owners check for themselves. One of our sparkies was at a job only last week in Camp Hill with no safety switches and the property was only built 5 years ago.  

For those buying older properties (those built before 1992) it is the responsibility of the buyer to have a safety switch installed within three months from the settlement date. Failure to do this can attract a penalty of up to $1500.  Additionally those making extensions to their homes are also required to install safety switches in line with QLD wiring laws. This should be included in the electricians work, but again, good idea to check. 

Rentals

All investment rental properties covered by Residential Tenancy Agreements in Queensland are required to be fitted with safety switches as the responsibility of the landlord. If this is not the case for your rental home, it is important to make your property manager aware of the absence of a safety switch. 

Let’s switch on to safety

Can you put a price on safety and peace of mind? Would you ever forgive yourself if one of your family members was seriously harmed or killed because of a preventable electrical fault? No me neither.  Let me finish with a story that is very close to home….when my youngest child was a toddler, just beginning to form sentences, I walked into our lounge room in Coorparoo to find them with a small screwdriver in their hand. As they inserted it into the powerpoint saying ‘I fix, like Daddy’ I ran towards them and the safety switch tripped, protecting the safety of the most precious thing in my life. 

In a recent study it was found that most people believe they are well protected from electrical injury at home. It is time to think again and use the resources that we have and protect our precious people.  Once upon a time we didn’t use seat belts in cars either, now think about how many lives they have saved. 

If you would like a free quote or consult with one of our wonderful electricians, please give us a call.  

Read more about RCD (safety switch) protection here.