Safety around the home

Safety switches

Safety switches work by monitoring the flow of electricity through a circuit and detecting problems as soon as the current leaves the circuit. If a problem is detected a safety switch will shut off the electricity in 0.03 seconds – quick enough to save a life or prevent costly damage.

In Victoria it is mandatory to install safety switches in new premises and premises where major renovations occur. CitiPower and Powercor strongly urge customers to install one of the three safety switches available:

  1. Switchboard mounted safety switches

Switchboard mounted safety switches provide efficient protection for your entire home. They are installed by registered electricians in the same location as your meters and circuit breakers or fuses.

  1. Power outlet safety switches

Power outlet safety switches are designed to protect a single circuit in a particular part of your home. For maximum protection, a power outlet safety switch must be installed by a registered electrician on the first power point of each circuit after the switchboard.

  1. Plug-in safety switches

Plug-in safety switches are portable so they can be used outside or in areas where electricity is not usually used. Farmers often use plug-in safety switches. They plug directly into a power outlet, providing protection at a power extension and they only protect the appliance plugged into them. Portable safety switches are available from major hardware stores.

The Energy Safe Victoria website provides more information on safety switches.

Indoor safety

A good place to start is to make sure you have safety switches installed. The safety switches will alert you to possible problems with the wiring or electric appliances in your home or property. If you need to have these installed, or you need to have a fuse replaced or reset, call a qualified electrician.

Make sure your electric appliances are in good working order. For example, if an electrical appliance is continually tripping a safety switch, it’s time to replace the appliance.

If you feel a shock or a tingle from an electric appliance, you should turn it off immediately and have it fixed by a registered electrical tradesman. It’s the same for the cords on your appliances – if they are frayed or damaged, you either need to replace the appliance or make sure it’s fixed by a qualified repairer.

The same applies if you feel any shock or tingling when touching a metal surface, such as a sink.

It could mean you have a wiring problem in your home that needs to be fixed.

Other simple safety measures are:

  • put children’s safety plugs on powerpoints
  • turn off a toaster at the powerpoint before trying to remove stuck toast
  • never touch electric appliances or switches with wet hands or feet
  • avoid using adaptors and powerboards for more than they are designed to support
  • place extension leads along a wall – never under a rug where it will build up heat
  • turn powerpoints off before inserting or removing a plug
  • electric blankets: check all cords, don’t piggyback on power boards and when storing – roll don’t fold. Folding can damage heating element
  • electric heaters: don’t dry your clothes on an electric heater, water and electricity don’t mix! Don’t leave electric heaters in places where they can be knocked over and make sure heaters are turned off before you go to bed or when you leave the room.

Outdoor safety

Some electrical assets outdoors are highly visible, like overhead powerlines, but still often taken for granted.  The ones that are often forgotten altogether are underground power assets.  For example, if your home is in a new housing estate where all our electrical network has been constructed underground.

Programs like Energy Safe Victoria’s ‘Look up and live’ are designed to remind us all to be conscious of where electrical assets are located outdoors.

When working with electrical equipment outside, only use equipment made for this purpose, such as a whipper-snipper or lawn mower. Also make sure your electrical cords are in good condition – if there’s any damage, you either need to get rid of them or have a licensed repairer fix them.

Never connect a piggyback plug or ordinary plug to the end of an extension lead to make it longer, because the pins will be live.

For home maintenance, wear proper footwear (sandals and thongs are not suitable), and be very careful when raising a ladder or any scaffolding – keep it well away from powerlines and electricity and make sure the ladder has rubber feet touching the ground.

Finally, take extra care around a swimming pool as large volumes of water, wet bodies and bare feet means electric shock near a pool can be lethal.

Overhead power line safety

Always be aware of powerlines – whether that is when you’re flying kites and model planes, raising caravan antennas, and using ladders.

If you work with machinery such as tip trucks, high vehicles, excavators, cranes or augers, you need to remember “look up and live” before you commence work. Be aware that powerlines may be above you and pose a risk to you and others nearby. You even need to consider the height of larger vehicles when driving near powerlines.

Always take your time when you’re setting up to work near powerlines, and have someone monitoring the movement of your machinery near powerlines. This is for your safety and the safety of others around you.

It’s not just at work that you need to take care. Some recreational activities can also be hazardous if you’re not aware that powerlines are above you. For example, you may want to raise a mast on a boat – if the mast makes contact with a powerline, it could be deadly.

Whatever you’re doing, please take a moment to look up first and be cautious around power lines.

Documents and resources:

Underground power line safety

A quick call to Dial Before You Dig before you start work could save your life and protect our network.

If you’re planning to dig around your home for your garden, fences or even a pool, then you first need to know if there are electricity cables or other network assets beneath you.

Before you start work, you need to contact Dial Before You Dig on 1100 or apply for approval online.

Your request will be sent to CitiPower and Powercor and we’ll respond within two days with plans and information about the location of our underground cables in the network.

CitiPower and Powercor are members of the Association of Dial Before You Dig Services, a non-profit body dedicated to looking after all of Australia’s underground infrastructure.

To learn more visit:

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