People often forget just how dangerous the electricity that powers our lifestyles and households can be. Electrical safety switches and regular safety switch testing are chief protection measures against these dangers, but what exactly are safety switches? And what do they protect against?
The Dangers of Electricity
Electric shock can cause grievous bodily injury and even death. When electricity comes in contact with our body, it courses through every part of it. Upon entering the heart, electricity interrupts the natural electric impulses that create our heartbeat and can cause cardiac arrest.
Safety switches prevent this (and other) dangers from occurring.
What are Safety Switches?
Electrical safety switches interrupt electrical currents that have breached a determined threshold, which prevents the electricity from leaking through and coming into contact with our bodies or the earth. An electrical leak can not only cause harm by coming in direct contact with us, it can also electrocute us by electrifying the floor on which we walk.
Safety switches in proper working order will only take 10 to 50 milliseconds to take effect, which is fast enough to prevent electric shock and other hazards, such as fire.
How Common are Electrical Accidents?
You may think that modern electrics and wiring have made safety switches and safety switch testing redundant, but that is not the case. In Australia, 17 deaths were recorded in 2014-2015 because of electrocution by home appliances (Electrical Regulation Authorities Council, Electrical Fatal Incident Data) and, on average, 10 people die at work each year due to electrocution.
These figures prove that electricity is still a common cause of death, which is why electrical safety switches are so vital in creating electrically-secure environments, both at home and in the workplace.
How to Install a Safety Switch
Installing safety switches is an easy process, but they must be installed by a professional. Since 1992, it has been a legal requirement that all Australian homes are fitted with safety switches on all power circuits, as well as lighting circuits.
Keep in mind that installing just one safety switch per property might not be enough to provide the protection you need. Safety switches should be installed on each sub-circuit, including any that supply fixed electrical equipment like hot water heaters and air-conditioners.
In addition, the operation of the safety switch must not be affected by electrical equipment connected to the circuit that may distort the AC waveform. For instance, circuits that supply electricity to items like generators or inverters may need a specific type of residual current device (RCD).
Types of Safety Switches
There are three main types of electrical safety switches:
- Powerpoint units: Provide protection to singular powerpoints
- Main switchboard units: Provide protection to entire to entire properties, or selected units
- Portable units: Used with extension cords and portable power tools
The Difference Between Safety Switches and Circuit Breakers
There is a big difference between safety switches and circuit breakers. Circuit breakers are found throughout homes, and they are designed to prevent surges in electricity that can cause damage and fire. The key difference is that circuit breakers only protect the wiring and appliances in your home, not you.
Only safety switches possess the power to prevent electrical leaks from causing shock, injury and death. A property with proper electrical safety will use a combination of electrical safety switches and circuit breakers.
The Importance of Safety Switch Testing
Obviously, safety switches are only a useful form of protection if they are fully-functional. You need to use a combination of self, and professional testing to ensure your property enjoys the protection it needs.
To conduct a self-test, all you need to do is press the ‘test’ button. If the switch is functional, it will automatically flick to the ‘off’ position. You should then reset this function by flicking it back to the ‘on’ position.
The Professional Safety Switch Testing Process
Professional safety switch testing gives your property optimal protection. A professional test will involve:
- Ensuring that all circuitry is protected by a switchboard safety switch
- The area can be easily-accessed for self-testing
- Provide labelling and tracking of testing, so you can compare data
- Conduct a ‘test’ button functionality test
- Check that that your safety switch responds according got Australian Standards, by using a safety switch test device to monitor response times
- Testing done by a qualified and experienced technician that can pick up on potential problems before they become a disaster
Without proper testing, you can never be sure that your property is safe. As a business owner, it is your duty to ensure that all your staff return home every night. As a home owner, you need to make sure that your hose is safe for your entire family.
The consequences of taking risks with electricity are too severe. Don’t be a statistic. Get your safety switches tested.