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What to do when the safety switch goes off

It always seems to happen as you're rushing to get ready for work or when dinner is on the go, the safety switch goes off and most the electrical appliances in the house shut down. The fridge clunks to a halt, the hair dryer stops blowing, and the TV goes blank. Something has tripped the safety switch, which, even though it doesn't seem like it when you're running out the door in a half ironed shirt eating a piece of warm bread, is actually a good thing.

It means this essential home electrical safety device has potentially prevented a fatal accident. Safety switches activate in around .03 of a second cutting the supply of electricity to the circuit fast enough to prevent serious harm from an electric shock.

Reasons your safety switch might trip

The safety switch is triggered by a detected change in the flow of electricity through the circuit it is fitted to (in most homes it's fitted to the power point circuit). Many problems can cause this change in flow, common issues can include:

  • overloaded power sockets or power boards
  • faulty appliances
  • faults your home wiring
  • water in the walls or ceiling affecting the power circuit - Has it rained recently or is there a sprinkler hitting an outdoor power point?

What to do

The safety switch tripping can be a nuisance but the fix is usually fairly straight forward.

  1. Try to reset the switch by flicking it back to the ON position. Sometimes the issue is temporary and the safety switch will reset easily. However, if the problem is recurring get a licenced electrician to take a look at it.
  2. If the switch does not reset unplug all the appliances (if on the power circuit) or turn off all lights (if on the light circuit). Appliances must be unplugged, simply turning off at the power point is not enough. Don't forget the hidden power points like the one behind the fridge, washing machine, or dishwasher as well as any outdoor appliances which may be plugged in.
  3. Reset the switch. If the safety switch still fails to reset avoid touching it and any electrical systems and call a licenced electrician as soon as possible. (1300 150 753 if you're on the Gold Coast.)
  4. Once the switch is reset, plug your appliances back in one at a time. Usually, the faulty appliance will cause the safety switch to trip once it's plugged in and turned on clearly identifying the culprit.
  5. Make sure that power points that could be experiencing overload are not reconnected. Spread the appliances across several sockets or ask your electrician to install a new power point.
  6. For your safety do not use the faulty appliance until it has been checked and fixed by an appliance repair technician.

As we mentioned above if your safety switch trips regularly get it checked out by your electrician to ensure it's working correctly and providing protection for your family from electrical accidents.