Every year, 15 people are killed in Australian homes in electrical accidents that could have been prevented if a safety switch was fitted on the electrical circuit.
As many as 20 times that number of people are hospitalised with serious electrical injuries and burns. Find out how you can protect yourself in the free Switch Thinking Report.
Safety switches – also known as residual current circuit breakers (RCCBs) or residual current devices (RCDs) – have been in common use in Australia for over 20 years. However, feedback to Master Electricians through members and directly from the public indicates there is a high level of confusion as to what safety switches do.
Safety switches are different to circuit breakers and surge protectors. A safety switch will detect a current leaking to earth and will trip the circuit within as little as 30 milliseconds, and no more than 300 milliseconds. This stops the flow of electricity through the body of the person in contact with the circuit, in less than the length of a critical heartbeat.
Safety switches stop the flow of electricity on a circuit if it is detected to be leaking to earth. They are required by law to be fitted to the power and lighting circuits of all homes, however are rarely installed on all other circuits. They can be distinguished from circuit breakers and surge protectors by a button marked test, located on the front of the device.
Circuit breakers and fuses are designed to protect the electrical cables and fittings of the home from being overloaded or damaged. They cut power when electrical wiring in the home has too much current running through it. Circuit breakers rarely protect humans from electrocution or electric shock.