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Electrical safety devices

When buying electrical fittings and appliances, always ask for products that have an enhanced level of safety, such as a built-in RCD or recessed sockets.


Residual current devices

[image] Residual current devices.

An RCD constantly monitors the current flowing along a circuit.  If it senses any loss of current, where electricity is diverting to the ground rather than through the circuit, is will immediately shut off.

If your body is providing the path for the electricity to divert to the ground, you could be seriously injured, burned, severely shocked or electrocuted.

  • An RCD will prevent the shock being fatal by shutting the system down instantly.
  • RCDs should be installed in damp areas of your home where there are electric fittings, such as bathrooms, laundries, kitchens, garages, pools and external electric outlets.


Different types of RCD’s include fixed RCDs, which can be installed in standard socket outlets and wired in a way that protects other outlets downstream, circuit RCDs, which are wired into your switchboard, and portable RCDs.

It is a legal requirement for all new circuits originating at the switchboard and supplying lighting or socket outlets (power points) in domestic buildings to have RCD protection.  These RCD’s will normally be located at the switchboard. They will provide protection for all electrical wiring and appliances plugged into new circuits.


Testing your RCD

You can test your socket outlet and portable RCDs by plugging in a small electrical appliance (such as a night-light):

  • Press the “test” button.
  • If the appliance turns off, the RCD is working.
  • Make sure you press “reset” once the test is complete.
  • You should test these RCDs regularly e.g. every three months.


It’s a good idea to test switchboard RCDs every six months by checking that it trips when the “test” button in pushed.  However, be aware that tripping circuits will turn off the power to any appliances on that circuit.  So appliances with electronic clocks will have to be reset.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to test your switchboard RCDs when changing to and from daylight saving – when clocks will have to be reset anyway and it will be about six months since the RCDs where last tested.

If your RCD trips at other times; note the appliances connected at the time, unplug all connected appliances and reset the RCD, plug in the appliances one at a time and switch on.  If the RCD trips when an appliance is switched on, the appliance should be repaired or replaced.  If the RCD does not trip when appliances are plugged in and switched on, one at a time, but trips when several appliances are used together, you should get your RCD checked by a licensed electrician.



Isolating transformers

An isolating transformer protects you from an electric shock by providing an electricity supply that is isolated from earth.  For maximum protection, the transformer should be placed as near as possible to the electrical outlet.


[image] Shuttered sockets.

Shuttered sockets

Socket outlets fitted with internal protective shutters make it more difficult for children to poke things into them.


Recessed sockets and shrouded plugs

Recessed sockets and shrouded plugs on electrical fittings, extension cords and double adaptors help to prevent contact with the metal pins on a plug if they become partially exposed.


Insulated metal pins

An additional safety feature is a plastic insulation sleeve on the metal pins on a plug.  Like recessed sockets, these prevent contact with the metal pins while connected to electricity supply.


Transparent sockets and plugs

Clear-backed sockets and plugs expose any problems with the wiring.


Four-way switched socket outlets

These can be installed as part of your home’s permanent fittings to give you four sockets at an outlet, eliminating the need for multi-boxes and extension cords.


Last updated 5 November 2012
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