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Safety switches, surge diverters and circuit breakers

Safety switches are often confused with circuit breakers and surge diverters. Safety switches are not the same as circuit breakers or fuses. Safety switches are designed to prevent injury or death by automatically switching off the electricity supply, within 0.03 of a second, when an electrical fault is detected.

Safety switches are an additional form of protection to be used with circuit breakers and fuses. They may not protect all wiring and electrical appliances and will not prevent all electric shocks. Fuses and circuit breakers protect against short circuits and current overloads.

It is important to understand the differences between these three devices.

What’s the difference?

Safety switches

  • Monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and detect a problem that may pose a risk to personal safety and turn the power off within 0.03 of a second, and
  • Always have a test button and 30ma printed on them. They are also sometimes labelled with the words “safety switch”.

safety switch

Surge diverters

  • Protect the property from voltage surges such as those resulting from a lightning strike. The surge diverter captures the voltage spikes in the wiring that would otherwise be transferred into the equipment within the property.

surge diverters

Circuit breakers

  • provide short-circuit and overcurrent protection such as when a power point is overloaded. Click here to view a circuit breaker.

Surge diverters and circuit breakers do not act as safety switches for personal protection against electric shock.

Safety switches are not a substitute for common sense!

If you are unsure if a safety switch is installed at your property, contact a registered electrical contractor. Find a Tradie, here.

Contact us

If you have any queries in relation to electrical safety around the home or safety switches, surge diverters and circuit breakers please contact ESV on (03) 9203 9700 or send us an email to info@energysafe.vic.gov.au.