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Residual Current Devices (RCD) are safety devices designed to reduce the severity of electric shocks sustained in the event of an electrical incident by switching off the power to the circuit. These are sometimes called Safety Switches. Installing a RCD can prevent property damage, serious injuries, or even death resulting from an electric shock.
How Do RCDs Work?
A RCD continuously monitors the electric current that travels through the RCD protected circuit. As soon as the RCD detects a leakage to earth in the electric current on the RCD protected circuit (as an example, when a person touches a live part), the RCD “trips” and shuts off the power to the circuit. Quickly shutting off power to the circuit significantly decreases the severity of injury or death.
Importantly, a RCD will not completely eliminate the possibility of an electric shock being sustained. Humans are fantastic conductors of electricity, and coming into contact with a live wire or a damaged appliance or cord may result in electricity following the path of least resistance to earth – through the individual.
It is therefore very important a RCD “trips” quickly to switch off the power to the circuit and the individual. AS/NZS 3760:2010 specifies the “trip time” a RCD must switch off the power to the circuit. Regular “trip time” testing ensures the RCD continues to operate within Australian Standards.
Are there different types of RCD?
Fixed RCD’s are installed directly into the switchboard and are the most effective method of protecting all areas of a home or workplace. They can be installed on all circuits, or only some circuits depending on site requirements. One RCD protects one circuit which may supply multiple socket outlets or lighting fixtures. Fixed RCD’s can be installed on both power and lighting circuits.
Rapid Test provides a solution to testing Fixed RCD’s after installation in to the switchboard.
Portable RCD’s plug in to the socket outlet, and have the ability for portable electrical items to be plugged in to them, thus protecting the user of the portable electrical item. They can sometimes look like cube Power Boards and will be identified by their test switch. These are commonly used where no Fixed RCD’s are present.
Socket Outlet RCD’s
Socket Outlet RCD’s are incorporated in the wall socket outlet. You can identify the presence of a socket outlet RCD by the test switch on the socket. The RCD in the socket outlet only protects the user of the equipment plugged in to the socket outlet.
Do RCD’s need regular testing?
Installation and subsequent regular trip time testing of Fixed RCD’s on circuits in hostile environments is now mandatory in most states of Australia. Portable RCD’s should be tested using the test switch prior to each use, and regularly trip time tested by a competent person.
How do I know if I have RCD’s?
To identify Fixed RCD’s, simply open the door of your switchboard and have a look! You can identify the RCD’s by the “Test” button present on the RCD. Should you not see the “test” button, then it is likely you have Circuit Breakers and not RCD’s. Circuit Breakers will not switch off the power to the circuit in the event of a fault. We recommend you discuss your individual electrical requirements with a licenced electrician to ensure you have the most appropriate safety mechanisms installed for your premises.
Portable RCD’s and Socket Outlet RCD’s will also show a “test” button. Should you not see the “test” button, then your powerboard or socket is not protected by RCD.
Do I need to test my RCD’s?
As WHS legislation evolves, so does your responsibility to ensure and maintain the ongoing safety of your workplace and compliance with legislation.
Under Workplace Health and Safety Regulations, businesses are required to install and maintain RCD’s (safety switches) on all circuits protecting hostile environments. We know most people don’t know how an RCD works, and we certainly are not going to bore you with the intricate details – but what we will tell you is that an effective RCD is designed to detect any disruption to the electrical flow through the electrical circuit, and to then switch the power off should a disruption normally associated with electric shock or electrocution be detected.
Did you know that a regularly tested RCD is 3 times more likely to trip quickly in the event of an incident? If it was you being exposed to an electric shock, we are sure you would want it to trip as fast as possible! Testing your RCD regularly is therefore not only maintaining your compliance with regulations but is very likely to save the life of one of your colleagues.