08 September 2009

A safety switch or RCD can save your life

Last weekend in Western Australia's north-west , a two and a half year old toddler suffered a fatal electric shock while playing hide-and-seek at home. Primary investigations reveal that there was no Safety Switch or Residual Current Device (RCD) installed at this property. Almost 80% of the deaths by electrocution in WA in the last 17 years could have been prevented if RCDs were installed, and new regulations there now mandate homes to have two residual current devices (RCDs or safety switches) installed at the time ownership is transferred or, when a new rental lease is made.

RCDs are a mandatory requirement for socket outlet (power) circuits in all new dwellings across Australia since 1992. Having an RCD for lighting circuits too is mandatory in some states and provides extra protection and peace of mind.

What is an RCD and how does it work?

An RCD is a device that immediately switches off the electricity when it detects leakage or flow of electricity to earth (or other fault path) ie. through a human body, for instance. This happens within a few milli-seconds, much before electrocution can cause death. RCDs also prevent fire from faulty appliances by detecting electricity flowing to earth in electrical wiring and accessories.

Is an RCD the same as a circuit breaker? Am I protected if I have a circuit breaker?

No. A circuit breaker protects the wiring by disconnecting supply when a higher level of current flow is dectected than can safely be carried by the cable.  This is often not fast enough to prevent electrocution.

A circuit breaker and safety switch look somewhat similar, but the RCD is easily identifiable by the Test Button.

We have an RCD installed. Is it working?

Once every three months, use the test button on the RCD to see if it is working. This should turn off the appliances connected to the powerpoints (and possibly lighting) the RCD runs through.

We want to install an RCD

Call a registered licensed electrician to install an RCD. Regulations today require domestic installations to have at least two RCD's.  Most RCD installations are done at the same time the entire swichboard is upgraded.  For a FREE quote, call us on 0431 232 796. To check our prices go to our electrical services page.

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. Baishakhi is an MBA and looks after the "business" side of Epping Electrical. Read our story here.

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