Electrical Safety Issues

What is a safety switch?

By October 30, 2019No Comments

You’ve heard the term mentioned more than once.  You know that it’s something to do with keeping you electrically safe but you’re not sure how.  The truth is there are actually a couple of different types of devices in your switchboard that keep you and your house safe. They all do different things and as technology changes the advancements in safety are well worth considering for your property.

Outlined below are the definitions for the role safety devices play in an electrical circuit.

RCD – Residual Current Device (Safety Switch) – Installed on a circuit to protect people from electrical shock.

MCB – Mini Circuit Breaker – Installed on a circuit to protect the cabling from overloading for fire prevention.

RCBO – Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Over Current Protection – Installed on a circuit to protect both the cabling from overload and people from electrical shock.

The risk is real: 15 people are killed and about 300 seriously injured each year in avoidable electrical accidents in homes. Safety switches are the single most effective measure to prevent electrocutions and serious electrical injuries.

Safety switches have only been mandatory in new or extended homes since 2000 and only for a limited number of circuits. 35% of Australian homes remain completely unprotected by safety switches and 25% have only power circuits protected. Most homes have no safety switch protecting the stove, air con, hot water etc

What does this mean for you? If your home was built prior to June 2018 it is possible not all your circuits will have an RCD and some will only be protected by MCB’s.  An MCB will cut power to a circuit that overloads e.g. when too many appliances are plugged in and the cables overheat. However, it will not cut the power if a human comes in contact with the wiring. Electricians are required to add an RCD safety switch to any circuit they make changes to in your home now the new legislation is in place.  If you have not added any power points or lights to your property recently you may not have RCD’s on all your circuits.

Why is this important? In the event where a human comes in contact with the current, the RCD safety switch will trip the power within milliseconds to save you or a member of your family from a potentially fatal electrical shock. Adding an RCD to your circuits may mean the job takes longer but it also means better protection for your family. The average Australian home has a minimum of two power point circuits, two lighting circuits and a number of appliance specific circuits for hot water systems, air-conditioners and so on. From 2018, safety switches became mandatory for all circuits without exception in newly built homes.

How we can help? If you are unsure what kind of protection you have it is well worth getting an electrician onsite to determine this for you. They can then provide a quote for any changes necessary to bring your property up to the new Australian Standards. At Dolphin Electrical we take your safety very seriously and we also understand after hours emergency call outs can be expensive. We would recommend installing each circuit with a RCBO, protecting property and people in one device. It is the best option to guarantee optimised safety as well as isolating the fault to the only circuit affected without risk of  a complete black-out!

You have a safety switch but does it work? If you already have safety switches at your property, do you know if they are working?  Like any other electrical device safety switches can become faulty and need to be tested on a regular basis to ensure they are working. It is recommended for domestic properties a push button test is done every 6 months (you can do this yourself).  If the safety switch doesn’t trip when tested it is faulty and requires replacing. The recommendations also state an Electrician should test the safety switch with a meter every two years. To ensure the safety of your family at Dolphin Electrical we recommend the testing be done by an Electrician every year.

Contact us for your safety requirements.