In this article we bring you what you need to know about safety switch installation for Brisbane properties! (Image from Clipsal.com)

Safety Switch Installation in a Nutshell

The safety switch has been around for decades. And even though it’s a life-saving device required by law in Queensland, few people are aware of how it works.  Or, even what it looks like!  But we’re more than happy to share with you all you need to know about this brilliant little gizmo.

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Safety Switch Versus Circuit Breaker

People often mistake safety switches for circuit breakers. It’s an understandable oversight for anyone without a background in electrical technology. But being able to tell them apart can make the difference between life and death.

A safety switch is a device that prevents electrical shock caused by faults like a short circuit. The safety switch is also known as a Residual Current Device (RCD).  The RCD measures incoming current in a circuit and compares it with return current flow.  It is capable of detecting variations of more than 300mA, which indicate a short circuit. When such a variation is detected, the RCD then shuts down current supply immediately.

It’s like a circuit breaker in that it stops current supply. But circuit breakers monitor for over current, such as overload due to surge or lightning strike. They “trip” to avoid damaging the circuit and prevent fires from breaking out.

By comparison, RCDs are designed to protect humans by reacting at current variations that can cause injury.

Testing Your RCDs

To that end, they feature a reset button for “trip” tests.  The reset button is usually marked with “T” or “test” lettering, and it can come in virtually any colour, size, and shape. These tests should be carried out at least twice a year, as shown in this video by WorkSafe Queensland:

Find further information from Worksafe Queensland, here: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safetyswitches

RCDs come in many shapes and sizes, fitted onto switchboards, meter boxes, powerpoints or extension leads. Portable safety switches are used to monitor power tool usage outdoors or on construction sites, for instance.

The Importance of Installing Safety Switches

Safety switches are life-saving devices. A short circuit is an accident waiting to happen, potentially with life-changing consequences. Here are some of the most common issues that trigger a safety switch:

  • Faulty household appliances like hairdryers, toasters, kettles, fridges, and pool pumps
  • Faulty electrical wiring (especially common in older properties)
  • Damaging a wire (hammering a nail into it through the wall, for instance)
  • Pests like rodents, possums, and termites nibbling on a power point or a wire
  • Water leaking into power sockets, light fixtures and wires through a roof, wall, or window

Every building is different, and some may need more than one safety switch to be deemed safe. Only an experienced and qualified electrician can determine this.  Engaging a qualified electrician for safety switch installation is the best way to protect the people within a building from physical injury due to electric shock.

Residential vs Commercial Installations

Residential and commercial properties need different types of safety switches and layouts. Their requirements depend on usage and electrical loading. But a professional safety switch installation is just as important in preventing accidents in a small residential dwelling as it is for office buildings, warehouses, and factories.

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Statistics on Safety Switch Installation

Only about 2 out of every 3 homes across Australia have any safety switches. But hardly any of these have RCDs fitted on all their circuits. Roughly 1 in 4 homes has protection for power outlet circuits, and every 1 in 3 has safety switches on power and light circuits.

It’s a major improvement from two decades ago, but not nearly enough. Short circuits can still occur when faulty stoves, ovens, air conditioning units, and other energy-intensive appliances are used. Not to mention exposed sockets, damaged wires, or water leaks.

Rules for Safety Switch Installation

Adequate safety switches are a legal requirement in Queensland for all new homes since 1992. Any additional electrical installations, including power sockets, must also include safety switches. For homes built in Queensland after 2000, safety switches are also required on lighting circuits.

When you sell a property in Queensland, it’s your legal obligation to declare any existing safety switches fitted for power sockets.  This declaration is to be done on Form 24 (Property Information (Transfer)) and standard sales contracts. When you buy a residential property locally, you must also install any missing safety switches within three months of the transfer of ownership.

If you’re renting out your property, the law is even more exacting. The onus is on you, as the landlord, to make sure that the requirements are met.  The landlord must ensure every power point circuit has a safety switch in place.  This must be actioned within six months of signing the tenancy agreement.

JTB Electrical is Here to Help

Clearly, the benefits of RCDs outweigh the costs. And if you need to fit your home or workplace in Brisbane with life saving RCDs, we warmly welcome you to give us a call.  Call us at 3279 4009. Our helpful and skilled JTB electricians will discuss your needs openly, without obligation.  We’ll start by looking at your options, giving you a safety switch installation cost estimate.  Furthermore, we’ll be sure to make honest recommendations to suit you and your property.

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