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We all know the feeling – we turn the kettle on and the power goes out, or you decide it’s time to do some ironing and, the minute the iron is on, the safety switch trips. Although it may seem frustrating, this is the safety switch doing exactly what it is designed to do – protect you from an electric shock. In saying this, if your safety switch is constantly tripping or there doesn’t appear to be a reason behind it tripping, there may be a bigger issue that needs investigating by a licenced electrician.

Because we know how annoying a constantly tripping safety switch is (don’t get too mad though, as it is just doing its job), we have put together a guide of what to do if your safety switch keeps tripping, and who to call if you are having ongoing issues. If you still aren’t sure, always call your local electrician to help as dealing with electrical wiring can be very dangerous.

What is a safety switch?

A safety switch is just like its name suggests – a switch for electrical safety. A safety switch is designed to protect against electric shock and it does this by measuring the current going out and coming back, and can detect the smallest leakage of current. They protect people against faulty appliances, fittings and electrical faults by ‘tripping off’ when a leakage is detected.

safety switch sign

Safety switches can come in many different sizes, brands and types. The most common safety switch for installation in your house is generally installed in the switchboard and can be a combination circuit breaker and safety switch in the one unit commonly called a ‘combo’ in the electrical industry.

What’s the difference between a safety switch and an RCD switch?

Nothing! A residual current device (RCD) switch is just another name for a safety switch. This term is often used in commercial applications to refer to electrical safety device.

What’s the difference between a circuit breaker and a safety switch?

What’s the difference between a circuit breaker and a safety switch, you ask? A circuit breaker is designed to protect an appliance from an overload of current, whereas a safety switch/RCD is designed to protect a person.

Why is my safety switch tripping?

The most common cause of a tripping safety switch is a faulty electrical appliance connected to a circuit and, in most cases, this can be fixed by working out which item is causing the safety switch to trip. Nine times out of ten it’s a faulty appliance and you won’t need an electrician if you follow some simple steps to locate the cause.

electricity power plugs

Other issues can be water or moisture into an electrical circuit, ants and rodent damage, or a power surge on the circuit. In some rare cases, the safety switch can fail or become faulty causing it to trip and not reset. These are all issues to be addressed by your local electrician though, so if you are thinking that an appliance isn’t the cause of your safety switch tripping get in contact with them as soon as possible.

What is causing my safety switch to trip?

These simple steps will help you figure out what is making your safety switch trip. If you are still having issues after following these procedures, or are unsure in any way, give your local electrician a call.

Step 1: Faulty safety switch

The first step is to check and eliminate the safety switch as being faulty, which is relatively easy. Turn off all the circuits in the switchboard and, once this is done, try to turn the faulty safety switch only back on. If the safety switch will turn on with all the other circuits off, then this is a good indicator that the safety switch is okay. If it won’t reset and still trips off or has no tension on the lever/mechanism, it is likely that the safety switch has failed and will require an electrician to replace it with a new one.

Step 2: Powerpoints

If your safety switch resets with all the other circuits off, the next process is to go around your house and unplug all items plugged into the power points… and we mean all of them. You must completely unplug the sockets, not just turn off the switch. Some tricky ones to remember can be the dishwasher, oven rangehood, pool equipment (if on the main power circuit), and items plugged into outdoor power points.

electricity shock powerpoint

Once all sockets are empty, you will need to go and reset the safety switch, whilst making sure all the other circuits are now on in the switchboard. If the safety switch stays on, this is a good sign you have a faulty appliance (that you have unplugged). However, if it still trips, you are going to need to call an electrician as it could be a wiring issue or a faulty safety switch.

Step 3: Appliances

If your safety switch has remained on once reset, it is now time to go back and start plugging all your appliances back in. Here’s a simple trick to make it easier to find the problem appliance: plug in a radio and play some music. As you go back through plugging in and turning on all your appliances one by one, when you hear the radio switch off this will let you know that the appliance you just plugged in is faulty. Now remove that appliance and reset the safety switch and plug everything back in.

You should now hopefully have been able to identify what item was causing your safety switch to trip. Make sure this is either repaired by a licenced appliance repair specialist or thrown out.

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Your qualified electrical specialists

If you are still having trouble with your safety switch, or think it may be time for safety switch testing give Static Electrics a called on 1300 206 004 or complete an online safety switch testing booking request form today.

Remember, never carry out electrical work yourself and always use a qualified electrical contractor. The above information is basic fault finding that is simple and safe to do, however should be used as a guide only.