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What are Safety Switches?

Last Updated Dec 19, 2011 · Written by Jaclyn Fitzgerald

Electricity is a must in all homes and it’s something that is taken for granted when it is working as it should. Unfortunately, faults in the home’s wiring or electrical appliances can occur and these can be quite dangerous.  Protect yourself and your family against these faults occurring by ensuring that you have a safety switch installed.  Here’s everything you need to know. For more advice or to source a switch for your home, speak to your local electrician.

About Safety Switches

A safety switch is a device that is designed to interrupt the flow of excessive current that is caused by faulty wiring or faulty appliances.  The safety switch “trips” and prevents damage to the rest of the wiring system as well as protecting you from personal injury from electric shock.

How Does a Safety Switch Work?

Safety switches work by monitoring the flow of electricity through the switch and cutting the electricity supply (“tripping” the switch) when it detects any irregularities in the flow.  They are essential for both power and lighting circuits but they are particularly important for lights and appliances in wet areas, outdoors, and where extension leads, power tools and portable appliances are used.  In many cases, the switches are tripped by a faulty appliance but if you have unplugged all of the appliances on the circuit and the switch still keeps tripping, you have a fault in your wiring that needs to be looked at by an electrician.

Are Safety Switches Easy to Use?

A safety switch is very simple to operate.  It “trips” (flicks the switch to cut the power to the circuit) when it detects an abnormal flow of electricity.  Once it has tripped, it is simply a matter of flicking the switch again to reset it.  In this way, they are much simpler to use than fuses as you simply flick the switch to reset the system back to normal, unlike fuses where you have to replace the wire.

Is a Safety Switch Necessary?

The simple fact is that a safety switch isn’t just a good idea; it’s the law for any home that has been built after 1992.  Safety switches must be installed on both power and lighting circuits.  Also, when buying a property, if there is not already a safety switch installed, you must install one for power circuits within three months of the title being transferred into your name.  If you are selling a property, you’ll need to state if there is a safety switch installed on your power circuits and then you state this on the standard sales contract as well as the property transfer forms.  Finally, in the case of rental properties, the owner of the property must make sure that a safety switch is installed within 6 months of entering a rental agreement, if there is not already one installed.
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