Safety switches are designed to minimise the chance of person receiving a fatal electric shock. Many Queensland homes either don’t have a safety switch at all or if they do, then it only protects the power circuits. It is recommended that a safety switch is fitted to each individual circuit in your home, including all power point, light, pool, air conditioning, oven and hot water circuits. The easiest way to see what level of protection you have is to go to your switchboard and push the “T” test button on all of your safety switches. Anything that will still operate when the safety switches are all in the “off” position is not protected by a safety switch.
How does a safety switch work?
A safety switch is another name for a Residual Current Device (RCD). A safety switch monitors the flow of electricity in a circuit. Under normal circumstances the amount of electrical current that flows to an appliance from the switchboard via the active conductor should be equal to the amount of electrical current that returns to the switchboard from the appliance via the neutral conductor. When someone receives an electric shock, electricity will flow through their body to the ground causing the flow of electricity in the circuit to become out of balance. When the current in a circuit becomes out of balance a safety switch will switch off the supply of electricity in as little as 30 milliseconds (0.03 seconds).
What do safety switches look like?
A safety switch should not be confused with a circuit breaker. A safety switch will have a test “T” button on it. Circuit breakers are designed to protect the electrical wiring and appliances in your home in the event of an overload or a short circuit. They will not protect you from being electrocuted.
How do I test my safety switch?
It is recommended that you test to see if your safety switch is operating correctly every 3 months. An easy way to remember is if you do this each time you receive your quarterly power bill. To do this you simply go to your switchboard and push the test “T” button on each safety switch. The safety switch should trip instantaneously. To reset the safety switch, push the lever back up into the on position. On some safety switches you will have to rotate the lever clockwise to turn it back on.
My safety switch keeps tripping. What shall I do?
Safety switches will trip for a variety of reasons including excess moisture, mechanical damage to cables and appliances, poor cable insulation, and damage resulting from rodents like rats.
If your safety switch keeps tripping you may be able to find the source of the problem by following this procedure. Do not touch any potentially faulty appliances while the power is on.
- Go around your home and switch off and UNPLUG every appliance. Don’t forget things like the dishwasher, garage door and the fridge.
- Once everything is unplugged, try turning the safety switch back on. If it still trips its time to call an electrician.
- If it doesn’t trip, Start plugging each appliance back in one by one. If the power goes off then the last thing you plugged in is probably the culprit
If an appliance repeatedly trips the safety switch it should be unplugged and checked by a licensed electrician.