A Guide to Using Safety Switches

A Guide to Using Safety Switches

When you get an electric shock, electricity flows through your body to earth. If exposed, it can travel through your heart, interfering with the natural electric impulses that keep it beating.

Safety switches can prevent these types of accidents from happening and are an easy way to keep you family safe, so don’t think twice about installing them.

What are safety switches?

Safety switches interrupt excessive current, and are designed to immediately switch the power off when dangerous levels of electricity leak through faulty switches, wiring or appliances, providing a high level of personal protection from a possible electrical shock.

It should only take 10 to 50 milliseconds for a safety switch to operate, which is quick enough to save your life and help prevent costly fires or damage to your property.

Installing safety switches

RCDs have been mandatory in any new or extended domestic power circuits since the early 1990s, and in any new or extended domestic lighting circuits from the year 2000.

If you are an employer, self-employed person or a controller of premises you have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Residual Current Devices) Regulation 2011, to ensure that power circuits and specified electrical equipment are protected by an RCD.

Installing safety switches is easy and inexpensive, considering the protection they provide.

Types of safety switches

There are three types of safety switches you should be familiar with:

  • Switchboard of meter box units which are installed on the main switchboard, they can provide either complete protection or selected circuit protection.
  • Powerpoint units which are built into a single power point, providing single circuit protection.
  • Portable units that are suitable for use with extension cords and portable power tools.

Safety switches vs. circuit breakers and fuses

It is important not to confuse safety switches with circuit breakers and fuses.

Circuit breakers or fuses are present in all homes, and are designed to cut the power off when the electrical wiring in a building has too much current flowing through it, which could potentially heat the wires within an appliance and cause a fire. They are designed only to protect the wiring and appliances in your home, not people.

Circuit breakers, fuses and safety switches will all interrupt excessive current, but only safety switches will do it to a greater scale, protecting you against electric shock, serious injury or death.

Regular checks

Testing your safety switch regularly is important because if they don’t work then they simply cannot protect you. Testing should ideally be performed every three months.

You can do this yourself by pressing the TEST button on the safety switch. If working properly, doing this should automatically trip the switch to the off position. You can then reset it by pushing the switch back to “on”.

If for some reason it doesn’t work, contact a licensed electrician and get it fixed as soon as possible.

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