Safety Switches – saving lives

“In the past 17 years, 29 people including eight children have been electrocuted in homes in Western Australia. Twenty-three of these deaths could have been prevented if Residual Current Devices (RCDs) had been fitted to the power and lighting circuits”.  Department of Commerce – Energy Safety

Electrical hazards are often hidden and can be difficult to identify, such as a small hole in an extension lead or appliance lead or a power board damaged internally. Electrical accidents occur in an instant. RCDs are the only device that can protect your family from these hidden dangers and give them a second chance.


How a safety switch works

A safety switch or residual current  devise (RCD) or (ELCB) is designed to cut off the electricity supply within 10 to 50 milliseconds of detection of a fault.  These devices monitor the flow of electricity within a circuit.  If the amount of electricity flowing into a circuit exceeds the amount leaving, the RCD automatically cuts the electricity supply.  A minimum of 2 RCDs should be fitted to protect all power point and lighting circuits.  Certain circuits in the house will not be covered by an RCD such as the oven circuit.

Beware of cheap imports

We all want to save money but installing safety switches may not be an area you want to be choosing the cheapest quote.  The market is full of imported electrical switchgear and like most things the quality varies dramatically.  Using a respected and reliable brand will cost more (as will using a electrical company that provides quality workmanship with a guarantee) but may mean the difference between the devise working or not.  Not something you want to take a chance with. Clipsal provide a 5 year warranty on their safety switches.

When you call around for prices, please think about why some companies can offer electrical work for less.  Some questions to consider:

  • How long has the company been in business
  • Will they be around to provide back up when/if you need it
  • Can they provide a safety certificate (as required by Energy Safety)
  • What type of products are being used
  • Is all work being carried out in compliance with the wiring regulations

Testing – thats what that little button is for!

Safety switches should be tested on a regular basis to make sure they are in good working order.  Use the arrival of your power bill as a reminder to press the test button on your safety switches.  Its a small (often blue) button marked ‘test”.  The device should click off when the button is pressed.  Reset and rest easy.  If the devise doesnt click off or wont reset you need to call an electrician.

What the government has to say

Since 2000 it has been compulsory for all new homes to have two RCDs fitted to protect the power and lighting circuits as part of an electrical installation.

To help reduce deaths from electrocution, the Western Australian Government implemented new RCD regulations in August 2009.

The new legislation applies to people selling their homes and to landlords. Every home sold or leased must be fitted with a minimum of two RCDs which must protect all power and lighting circuits.

When a new tenant takes up residency, landlords will need to install the devices before the lease agreement is signed. However, for homes with a continuing tenancy, landlords have until 8 August 2011 to fit the RCDs.

RCDs detect an imbalance in the electrical current and disconnect the power within 10 to 50 milliseconds, preventing electrocution and fire.

Installing at least two RCDs in your meter box or distribution board and testing them regularly is a small investment in money and time. It will provide long term protection for you and your family against serious injury and death.

For more information please visit

A helping hand

WA Seniors Card holders may be eligible for a rebate of up to $200 for the purchase and installation of RCDs. For further information phone 6217 8855 or 1800 671 233 (Country Free Call) or visit

What to do when the RCD trips

As you will have at least 2 RCDs, you may still have power or lights or partial power or lights depending on how the RCDs have been installed.  If you have a large house, having a RCD for each power and/or lighting circuit will minimize the inconvenience and make fault finding easier.  It also means in most situations, if an RCD trips you will still have other circuits unaffected.

  • First thing to consider is, who is in the house and what appliances are they using?  One of the most common causes of an RCD to trip is a faulty appliance.  Irons, kettles, fridges etc that are used frequently can be fine one day then pose a problem (and safety risk) the next.
  • If you know an appliance was just plugged in before the power went off, unplug it and reset the safety switch at the meter box.
  • The safety switch will only reset if the offending appliance has been unplugged from the power point – it is not enough just to turn it off at the switch.
  • If you are unsure what the cause is, go to the switchboard and turn off the main switch.
  • Go around the house and   Remember to check any outside power points.
  • Return to the switchboard, reset the RCD and turn the main switch back on.
  • Dont force the RCD.  If it wont reset, a fault is still detected.

Occasionally rain/water will get into the electrical wiring through a broken roof tile or overflowing gutters.  If you are unable to locate the cause, a Licensed Electrical Contractor  will need to be called to test and rectify.

If you need an more information or help, please call (08) 9367 1198