Are RCDs Mandatory?

RCDs are a mandatory safety device designed to minimise the risk of an electric shock from electrical circuits and equipment, therefore it is the responsibility of building owners or managing agents to ensure that RCDs are tested.

Tenants must be informed of the requirements, and document that they’ve done so, to protect themselves from liability. If a tenant will not permit RCD testing at the required testing interval, the managing agent or building owner could become liable.

When an inspection or test identifies that an RCD fails to comply with the standards, the RCD should be removed from service and replaced immediately. The decision to take remedial action, disposal or other corrective action is determined by the owner or the person responsible for the safety of the site. The electrician or agent can’t force a building owner or tenant to replace an RCD, but the electrician testing must not keep the RCD in service. Circuits can be doubled up in switchboards to temporarily bypass the RCD, but retain power to all circuits.

‘For an RCD not to be installed on a new circuit there needs to be a very valid justification.’

 

How do you read an RCD?

RCDs have codes and symbols like other electrical components and equipment. The information shown on the commercial RCD below represents the following:

  • CLIPSAL – Manufacturer
  • Part number of RCD
  • C32 is the rating of the RCD in AMPS. This one is 32 Amps
  • 240V is the operating voltage of RCD
  • 6000 is the kA Rating of the RCD
  • 30ma is the milli amp rating of RCD. This RCD when it detects a fault, will trip off at 30 milli amp of fault current.
  • Hz – Hertz, this relates to the 240V component and is the standard frequency in 240v electrical supply in Australia
  • Symbol (circled red) – Suitable for alternating and residual pulsating direct current (mandatory in Australia)

                 8.3.3.1 Low voltage (f) Operation of RCDs, in accordance with Clause 8.3.10

 

For a Preventative Maintenance Plan for the commercial buildings you manage call Prolux today on 1800 800 880.

AS/NZS 3760 states RCDs must be Injection Tested every 12 months

What are the current regulations for RCDs?

In Australia, all commercial businesses and industrial facilities are required to maintain electrical safety, to remain compliant. One important component of electrical safety is the periodic testing of RCDs, to ensure they work correctly.

RCD testing requirements are in place to help the owner or managing agent maintain safety and compliance, these requirements are outlined is AS/NZS 3760, AS/NZS 3000 and AS/NZS 3017.

AS/NZS 3017 sets out common test methods to verify that testing of a low voltage electrical installation complies with the standard. The standard also includes minimum safety standards for test instruments. Testing must be carried out in such a manner that the safety of the operator, other people in the vicinity, and the test equipment is not placed at any risk. Essentially, it’s important during testing in an open area that either barricades are installed around the person testing, or a spotter is in place ensuring adequate distance is maintained around the tester. As RCD testing is usually done after hours, members of the public are not generally present, but it’s something that always needs to be carefully considered.

How do you test an RCD?

Clause 8.3 of AS3017 outlines suitable testing methods. All testing of RCDs must be done with power available to the RCD (live). Testing will interrupt the power supply to the circuit being tested for up to one minute. There are two aspects of RCD testing, covered by two separate testing procedures and are to be conducted as per below, aligning with AS/NZ 3760.

  • Test 1: Integral trip push button test: at an interval applicable to the environment
  • Test 2: Injection test: at an interval applicable to the environment

The integral trip push button test is a simple test and is relatively self-explanatory. This will interrupt power only momentarily. This test however cannot guarantee the RCD is operating correctly, thus the injection test is still required. The push button test only tests that the overall mechanical aspect of the RCD is operational, but will not check that it will work at the correct fault level in the event of an electrocution.

The injection test works applying various milli-amp currents using the tester, between active to earth. This test should be conducted to ensure compliance with AS/NZ3760.

The time taken for the active (and neutral) to be disconnected by the RCD is measured using the tester; this is what we are looking for, to determine if the RCD is tripping when it’s supposed to. The result of this test is recorded and compared to the framework of allowable outcomes. For a standard 30mA RCD a trip time of 300ms or less is classified as a PASS.

An RCD should not trip at less than 50% of their rated trip current, unless there is some other residual leakage current from an appliance or low insulation resistance.

The RCD under test should:

  • not trip at half its rated trip current
  • trip within 300ms at its rated current (30mA and 100 mA RCDs)
  • trip within 40ms at its rated current (10mA RCDs)
  • trip within 40ms at five times its rated trip current.

The AS/NZS 3760 stipulates that RCDs should be integral trip button tested every 6 months and injection tested every 12 months.

 

Prolux have the knowledge to undertake thorough RCD testing. For the safety of your building and its occupants call 1800 800 880 today.

RCDs V’s Circuit Breakers

What is the difference between an RCD and a Circuit Breaker?

Sometimes there is a misconception regarding the difference between an RCD (Residual Current Device) and a Circuit Breaker. Let’s explain…

An RCD is typically known as a Safety Switch, designed to protect against electrocution and will detect any disruption of electrical flow through an electrical circuit. If the flow of electricity returning through the circuit does not exactly match the amount of electrical flow entering the circuit, the RCD will ‘switch off,’ due to electricity leakage (leakage to earth). The RCD ‘thinks’ that the leakage to earth is electricity going through a person and into the ground, therefore switching off the power supply to prevent any form of an electric shock.

A Circuit Breaker on the other hand is an electrical switch, designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage, caused by an excess electrical flow (current draw), due to an overload or short circuit.

Circuit Breakers will not ‘switch off’ the power to the circuit in the event of an earth leakage fault. They will activate by switching the power ‘off,’ in the event of a high current fault, short circuit or overload, such as when too many appliances are plugged into a single power point, or when one of the appliances is faulty.

 

How does an RCD work?

An RCD constantly monitors the current flowing in both the ‘active’ and ‘neutral’ wires supplying a circuit or an item of equipment; which under normal circumstances should be an equal current flow in both wires. When an earth leakage occurs, it creates an imbalance, the RCD detects this and will automatically ‘cut off power’ before damage or injury transpires. RCDs must disconnect power supply (switch off) within 30 milli-seconds of leakage detection. RCD’s in Patient Protected Areas (such as hospitals) must ‘cut off power’ within 10 milliseconds of detecting a leakage.

“Even a 30mA of current could be enough to cause a person to go into cardiac arrest or cause irreversible damage to their body.”

Fixed RCDs can be identified by the ‘Test’ button. Portable RCD’s (plug into a socket outlet) and Socket Outlet RCD’s (incorporated into an outlet) also have a ‘Test’ button. If you can’t identify a ‘Test’ button, then it’s likely to not be an RCD.

 

Are RCDs compulsory? Do all circuits require RCDs?

 All circuits rated 32A or less that are supplying socket outlets, lighting, hand held equipment or equipment that present as an increased risk of an electrical shock must be RCD protected (unless labelled otherwise for a specific item of equipment). All new circuit installations require RCDs to be installed, or when the circuit installations require additional protection (30 Amps +).

For Commercial and Industrial installations RCDs must be installed within a switchboard at which the final sub-circuit originates. This is a mandatory requirement of the AS/NZS 3000:2018 Wiring Rules Standard. Even though the standard calls for RCDs on all sub-circuits up to and including 32 Amps, exemptions apply. If a single item of electrical equipment (e.g. light) which isn’t RCD protected is to be replaced with an equivalent item within the same location, then the exemption may apply.

When switchboards are altered or replaced, RCDs are required for final sub-circuits. RCDs are also required to protect socket outlets when they’re added to an existing circuit. However, RCD protection only needs to be installed at the origin of the additional wiring. When all circuit protection within a switchboard is replaced, then additional RCD protection is required for the final sub-circuits supplied by that switchboard.

 

Looking to upgrade a switchboard? Call Prolux Electrical Contractors on 1800 800 880 and let us ensure your commercial and industrial buildings run safe and efficiently. 

AS/NZS 3000: 2018 Wiring Rules Standard for RCDs in Commercial Buildings

New clause preventing electric shock in Commercial Buildings

Effective January 1st, 2019 was the new edition of the AS/NZS 3000 Wiring Rules Standard (Electrical Installations), which outlined over 200 changes and expanded upon the coverage of electrical installations. The changes have taken into account new technologies, new products and improvements in safety, whist clarifying on the previous versions ambiguous requirements.

One of the major changes to the AS/NZS 3000: 2018 is the Residual Current Devices (RCD) requirements for the protection of sub-circuits and relating alterations and repairs (clause 2.6.3.2.3).

Everyone in the industry is bound by them and every customer is the beneficiary.

In commercial and industrial environments, all 32 Amp outlets and below need to be protected by an RCD. The new AS/NZS 3000 wiring rules require additional RCD protection:

  • 30mA RCDs shall be installed on all final sub-circuits supplying socket outlets and lighting below 32 Amps
  • 30mA RCDs should be installed on all final sub-circuits supplying 32 Amp fixed wired equipment
  • 30mA RCDs shall be installed on all final sub-circuits supplying 32 Amp fixed wired equipment that may classify as an increased risk of electric shock e.g. wet or high risk areas.

The RCD requirements for final sub-circuits has increased to 32 Amp, from the previous 20 Amp to provide personal protection from electric shock to the following circuits:

  • Power circuits for socket outlets (1, 2 & 3 Phase)
  • Lighting circuits
  • Directly connected handheld equipment
  • Directly connected stationary equipment within a high risk area.

All other final sub-circuits not in excess of 32 Amp are to be assessed RCD compatible and if so should be RCD protected to ensure they are both safe and compliant.

The purpose of the clause is to essentially minimise the risk of electric shock. When determining what an increased risk of electric shock is, we take into consideration the electrical equipment or appliance being used (e.g. is the electrical equipment Class 1, exposed conductive parts), external influences (e.g. exposure to elements, vibration, production line) and the connection to the supply.

There are exceptions however, one being applied where the equipment has leakage current that would impair on its reliable operation. This scenario would require a risk assessed appropriate alternative method of installation and equipment selection would be needed to achieve the same level as RCD protection; this could include additional mechanical protection, a separated supply or earth monitoring protection.

Even though the new standard calls for RCDs on all sub-circuits up to and including 32 Amp, exemptions can be applied for when:

  • Sub-circuits supply power to specialised equipment
  • Equipment develops a fault where a greater danger exists than leakage current
  • Equipment operating under normal conditions has the ability to produce earth leakage of a level that will trip a 30 Amp RCD
  • Single items of electrical equipment (e.g. a socket-outlet or light) which is not RCD-protected is replaced with an equivalent item in the same location – like for like
  • Reliability of the equipment is essential to the business operation.

The common complaint of nuisance tripping is not a valid reason for an exemption.

Comply with the Standards, it could save someone’s life, including yours.

What are the requirements for RCDs with alterations or replacement to switchboards?

RCD requirements are applicable when switchboards are altered or replaced. In an alteration, RCDs are required for final sub-circuits. RCDs are also required to protect power-outlets when added to an existing circuit (in accordance with the requirements for new sub-circuits, in the part of the installation in which they are located).

Where power-outlets are being added to an existing circuit and RCD protection is required, the RCD protection is only required to be fitted at the origin of the additional wiring. Where all circuit protection on a switchboard is replaced, additional protection by RCDs are required for the final sub-circuits supplied by that board.

As a Facility Manager, what do these changes mean for you?

The cost of installing new circuits for additional electrical equipment will be substantially higher, with the inclusion of RCDs. Be prepared for an increase in costs for additional circuits (especially 3 Phase), which may lead to the requirements for a switchboard upgrade, in order to facilitate the installation of the RCDs.

As commercial and industrial electrical contractors, it’s important that we are across all of the changes for our clients, awareness and safety are paramount.

Alex Lamblin – Director

 

For advice and assessment on your commercial and industrial electrical requirements call Prolux on 1800 800 880.