I think I’ve tripped the safety switch, what do I do?

What is a safety switch?

Safety switches are devices connected to electrical cables within a home, factory or alike and they have the ability to detect the loss of a current from a particular circuit and cut off power to the affected electrical device in as little as 25 milliseconds. Safety switches are designed to save lives; they prevent electric shock and electrocution. They have become mandatory on power outlet circuits of new homes since 1992 and on light power circuits in most Australian states since 2000. Many older homes and business residences don’t have safety switches installed which means things like air-conditioning, hot water systems and kitchen stoves aren’t protected. As of 2008, all residential rental properties were required to have safety switches installed. Workplace supervisors have a responsibility to make sure that RCDs (residual current devices) are installed within their workplace and fitted to electrical circuits wherever hand-held electrical tools are to be used. RCDs are to be installed by a licensed electrician only.

 Why does my safety switch keep tripping/going off?

1. Do I have a faulty appliance?

When an electrical appliance becomes damaged or develops a fault, it may start to leak an electrical current excess. The safety switch will detect the excess current and cause it to trip/turn itself off. The best way to determine if this is the problem is by unplugging all of the household or office electrical appliances at the power point, resetting the safety switch and then reconnecting each appliance one by one, until you can identify the faulty appliance. This is a trial and error approach. If it’s not an appliance it could be that water has gone into an outside power point or light. You will need a licensed electrician to carry out any electrical tests or upgrades beyond this point. Remember, safety is priority!


2. Is the wiring in my home or office faulty?

Faulty wiring poses a threat to your safety and presents the highest fire risk. Fortunately, a safety switch dramatically reduces these risks. All wiring deteriorates over time and can become dangerous; therefore older buildings are at more risk. A safety switch will detect any fluctuation in electrical currents caused by damaged wiring and will trip, cutting off electricity immediately and stopping the wiring from burning out. A qualified electrician can assess your electrical wiring and may suggest repairing wires or replacement altogether.


3. Is my safety switch faulty?

Sometimes the cause of a safety switch tripping can be the switch itself. As with any electrical appliance, a safety switch can become defective with age or misuse. If in doubt always consult an electrician.


4. Has my safety switch been affected by lightning?

A storm can bring lightning strikes and these can also be the cause of a safety switch tripping. When lightning strikes it may cause a power surge, if this occurs it is best to wait until the storm passes before resetting the safety switch. Always check with an electrician if you are unsure why your safety switch has gone off.


5. Have I experienced nuisance tripping?

If there’s a large number of appliances plugged in to the home or office at any one time, and just a small amount of current leaks out from each, then the current can add up and cause nuisance tripping. This can become more of a problem in older buildings where the electrical wiring isn’t in good condition. Limiting the amount of appliances plugged in at any one time can help to minimise this type of problem. You must always use caution when dealing with electrical appliances and if in doubt then contact a licensed electrician.


Test your safety switch

It is recommended that you test your safety switch every three months. To do this you need to press the ‘T’ or ‘Test’ button on the front of the safety switch. If the safety switch turns itself off then it’s working correctly. If it doesn’t turn the power off, then you will need to have it looked at and possibly replaced by a licensed electrical contractor as soon as possible. It is also important to make sure your electrical appliances; electrical wiring, extension leads and other electrical equipment are regularly checked and kept in good working order.


Call Prolux Electrical Contractors on 1800 800 880
If you need an RCD or safety switch installed, call us today.