Switch on to electrical safety

Electricity is all around us, flowing through our homes to power up our equipment and machinery. But do you know how to protect yourself from the dangers of electricity?

Not having safety switches installed, using unsafe electrical equipment and contact with overhead powerlines are the three most common risks on Queensland properties.

Electricity is invisible so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

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Get to know your switchboard

 

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Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

First up, let’s get to know your electrical switchboard.

A switchboard splits electricity across different circuits, providing power to lights, power points, and hard-wired equipment like air-conditioning, refrigerators, hot water systems, ovens and cooktops.

Switchboards can be installed indoors or outdoors. They may look different, but the main parts are similar.

There’s the meter to measure energy use. And main switches, to turn the power on and off to the different circuits.

Older style switchboards most likely still have old style rewireable fuses which do not protect you from electric shock.

And then there’s the circuit breakers - these protect your electrical wiring from being overloaded, reducing the risk of fire and damage.

However, the real stars of your switchboard are the safety switches – these help protect you and your family from electrical shock or worse.

Safety switches look similar to circuit breakers but have a ‘TEST or a ‘T’ button on them. Your safety switch can even be combined with your circuit breaker in the one device with a ‘TEST’ button.

Circuit breakers have NO test button.

Safety switches should be installed on all circuits to provide maximum protection for you and your family.

Safety switches work by continuously monitoring the flow of electricity. They turn off the power instantly when they detect an unsafe situation, saving you in a split second.

If the switches in your switchboard have no test buttons, that means you have no safety switches and no protection from electric shocks.

To make your property as safe as possible, give your licensed electrician a call to get safety switches installed right away.

Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Find out more at electricalsafety.qld.gov.au

 

How to test your safety switch

 

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Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Safety switches save lives - but only if they work.

Safety switches continuously monitor the flow of electricity.They turn off the power instantly when they detect an unsafe situtuation, saving you in a split second.

But to do that, they need be working properly - so safety switches should be tested every three months. Before you start, tell everyone in the house you’re about to run a safety switch test and the power will go off. This way they know what’s happening and can reschedule what they’re doing. Let’s start with one of your powerpoint circuits.

Go to the switchboard and press the ‘TEST’ or ‘T’ button on the safety switch. This test simulates an unsafe situation – like a person receiving an electric shock from faulty equipment.

The switch should flick to the off position, cutting the power to the powerpoints connected to that circuit. If the switch does not flick to the off position – then the safety switch is faulty and you need to get a licensed electrician to check it out.

Repeat this test for each safety switch in your switchboard.

Now check to see if any of the electrical equipment, powerpoints or lights still have power. If they’re still on, that means they are not protected by the safety switches and your family is not protected from electric shock.

Make sure you test your safety switches every three months.

Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Find out more at electricalsafety.qld.gov.au

 

Shocks, tingles and nuisance trips 

 

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Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Have you ever felt a zap, shock or tingle? Well it means something is not safe, so let’s investigate.

A minor electric shock might feel like a zap you get from static electricity or intense pins and needles – but it is the feeling of electric current running through your body. Even if it feels very minor, it’s not safe and you need to do something about it.

No matter the severity, or how infrequently it happens, you need to take this seriously as it’s a sign there could be a serious problem with your electrical equipment, wiring, switchboard or powerlines.

If you feel a shock or tingle from electrical equipment, stop using it immediately and contact your electricity distributor or get a licensed electrician to check it out.

If you feel a shock or tingle from a tap or metal fitting in your house, you need to contact your electrical distributor straight away to check out your property – for most people in Queensland, that would be Energex or Ergon Energy.

Avoid contact with the electrical equipment and any metal fittings. Keep away from the area, but don’t turn off your power as you may get an electric shock from the switchboard. If you think you’ve received an electric shock, seek medical attention. Even if you feel ok, an electric shock can have serious delayed effects.

Nuisance tripping is something else that shouldn’t be ignored.

Nuisance tripping is when your safety switch or circuit breaker regularly trips or flicks off for no apparent reason. This could be caused by circuits being overloaded or by faulty electrical equipment or wiring.

Circuit overloads are often caused by too many pieces of electrical equipment plugged into the same circuit ¬and all turned on at the same time.

To safely check the cause of a circuit tripping:

  • Unplug all electrical appliances on that circuit.
  • Reset the safety switch for that circuit.
  • Then plug your electrical appliance back in, and switch them on one item at a time.

If the safety switch trips again, then the last electrical appliance you plugged in and switched on may be the cause.

Disconnect it from its powerpoint, reset the safety switch for that circuit and check any remaining electrical appliances by plugging them in and switching them on one by one. If everything functions properly, you’ve identified the problem. To prevent the overload you could try plugging the electrical appliance into a different circuit that is safety switch protected.

Now, if your safety switch on this circuit trips when the electrical appliance is plugged in and switched on, then the appliance is most likely faulty. In this case you should replace it, or remove and label it and store it securely until you have it checked by a licensed electrician or the manufacturer. So if you feel a zap, shock or tingle – don’t ignore it - get it checked out. Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger….but it can kill.

Find out more at electricalsafety.qld.gov.au

 

Electrical equipment safety 

 

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Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Here are some simple steps to make sure your electrical equipment is safe to use. First up, it’s important to make sure all electrical equipment you buy has the Regulatory Compliance Mark on it or its packaging. This symbol means the products meet Australian Safety Requirements.

When you shop in-store or online check for this RCM symbol before you buy.You can also double check your purchase at electrical safety.qld.gov.au or eess.gov.au

Buying electrical equipment that is safe is the first step. Next, you need to keep it safe by following the manufacturer’s instructions for use, maintenance and service. Don’t forget to check to see if it’s marked ‘indoor use only’ or ‘for outdoor use’.

For household electrical equipment, make sure power leads are fully uncoiled before you use them. When you’ve finished, roll up the power leads in a natural coiling motion.

If you need to detangle power leads make sure you switch them off, unplug and then coil the lead from the connection end, NOT the plug end.

Over time, all electrical equipment can become unsafe. Signs to look out for are:

  • Cracked, broken or warped casings
  • Damaged safety guards
  • Colour changes from overheating or moisture
  • Water damage
  • Lead fraying, abrasions and cuts.

If you suspect your electrical equipment is broken or faulty, don’t use it. Get it repaired or dispose of it.

Recycling is the safest way to dispose of electrical equipment. Contact your local council or product retailer for safe disposal options. Cut the plug from the power lead and then break the pins on the plug so it cannot be plugged into a powerpoint again.

Make sure your electrical appliances are safe and in good working order. Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Find out more at electricalsafety.qld.gov.au

 

Overhead powerlines and underground cables 

 

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Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

At work or at home, powerlines are part of our everyday landscape and it’s easy to forget they’re above us–and beneath our feet. If we forget about powerlines, we put lives at risk. Always treat powerlines as live or energised especially when:

  • lifting, lowering or moving items like irrigation pipes and machinery
  • tree trimming
  • using a ladder
  • setting up,launching, sailing and retrieving sail boats or
  • putting up tents or shade covers.

Remember electricity can jump… a long way… so to stay safe you must understand powerline exclusion zones and keep well out of them.

If your vehicle, equipment or materials are higher than 4.6 metres, like harvesters, elevated platforms or cranes, there’s a real risk of them contacting powerlines or electricity jumping to them.

Plan in advance to eliminate risks and avoid storing equipment or parking vehicles under powerlines or planting trees or crops nearby. Talk to the Electrical Safety Office or your electrical distributor for safety advice.

Never allow irrigation systems to spray powerlines.

Don’t build structures under powerlines - not even temporary structures.

To find out where powerlines are located on your property visit lookupandlive.com.au.

If the unexpected does happen and your vehincle contacts powerlines, stay inside, direct everyone to stay 10 metres away and call 000.

And don’t forget contact with underground cables can be just as dangerous, so call Dial Before You Dig on 1100 for details, locations and depths.

If a powerline falls, stay at least 10 meters away and call 000 for assistance.

Always treat fallen or damaged powerlines as live, even if you think they aren’t, they can become live without warning.

Be careful cleaning up after storms or severe weather as powerlines can be hidden by fallen branches or debris.

Be aware of powerlines and observe the exclusion zones.

Electricity is invisible, so you can’t see the danger… but it can kill.

Find out more at electricalsafety.qld.gov.au