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Which RCD to Use?

fixed rcd vs portable rcd | Which RCD type to use

Did you recently purchase some new equipment? Or, are you checking your workplace for compliance? Either way, you’re probably wondering which RCD type to use for each piece of equipment. There is a range of different devices available – the one you choose will be informed by the nature of your work and the type of equipment you’re using.

After you’ve chosen your new safety switch, you’ll need to maintain it with regular RCD testing ­– but more about that later.

What is a residual current device?

A residual current device (also known as an RCD or electrical safety switch) stops the flow of electricity when there is a danger of electrocution by monitoring your electrical circuit. The device does this by monitoring earth faults and detecting electricity that is heading down an unintended path. This activity trips the safety switch and it turns off the electricity.


Fixed RCDs

Fixed RCDs are just that ­– fixed. They are installed in the fuse box and can provide protection for an entire building. This type of switch can be considered the highest level of protection because it monitors all of the wiring and power points in the connected circuit as well as any connected equipment.

Fixed RCDs are commonly used in the following working environments:

  • Residential buildings
  • Offices
  • Retail establishments
  • Public facilities
  • Industrial warehouses
  • Commercial buildings

If your workplace is in a fixed location, you know which RCD to use to protect your employees and guests. Make sure a licenced electrician completes the installation process, then ensure ongoing functionality with Jim’s Test & Tag. We’ll inspect and test your safety switch at the appropriate intervals according to the current Australian standards.

Portable RCDs

You can skip the safety switch installation process with a portable device. Portable residual current devices are available in a range of different designs and they can most commonly be found on construction and demolition sites. If your work is mobile, you need to invest in a mobile safety switch. You can buy a portable RCD in the following range of styles:

  • Power board: this device is a portable power board or box with multiple or single outlets. The safety switch function is built into the box. This will give the user protection for any equipment that is plugged directly into this power board.
  • Single outlet plugin adaptor: this adaptor is small and easy to transport. It will provide protection for one power point only. Simply plug the adaptor into the socket and then plug your equipment into the adaptor.
  • Extension lead: For added protection, you can purchase extension leads that come with in-built residual current devices. This option is suitable for those working indoors and outdoors.

Portable safety switches are commonly used in the following working environments:

  • Construction sites
  • Demolition sites
  • Installation sites
  • Workshops
  • Outdoor areas
  • Damp locations

According to WorkCover New South Wales, portable devices “should be used where RCD protection is not already provided or is unknown”. In any high-risk environment, this safety device is essential for monitoring equipment and appliances.

If you want to know more detail about each type of RCD, check out this handy guide from the electrical engineering portal. They provide a technical definition of each type of safety switch and their ideal use.

If you’re still having trouble figuring out which RCD to use, you can consider the following points:

  • Available space
  • Existing equipment (if replacing a faulty device)
  • Residual rating
  • Short circuit rating
  • Frequency rating

Consult your local safe work authority if you have any questions and take a look at this guide to the selection and use of residual current devices.

RCD Test

After you have chosen your new safety device, you’ll need to make sure it is maintained with regular inspection and testing. That’s where we come in. At Jim’s Test & Tag, we work to the following standards for residual current device testing:

  • AS/NZS 3760: 2010 – In service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment
  • AS/NZS 3012: 2010 – Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites

We work to these standards to ensure your workplace is protected and compliant. Every test we complete is documented in a detailed report for each client. No matter who you’re working with, you should always receive a report whenever you have electrical testing and tagging completed in your establishment. This will help you document your efforts to keep your business safe.

Now that you know which RCD to use, also read this article related to electrical safety for safety switches. Call us for expert safety testing services, we’re fully mobile and available across Australia.


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