WHS Regulation 2011 – Residual Current Devices (RCDs)

New regulations in NSW mean that all employers and premises controllers (i.e. building owners, property managers etc) need to ensure that power points in their workplaces are protected by RCDs (Safety Switches or Residual Current Devices).

On 1 January 2013, the requirements for Residual Current Devices (RCDs) changed in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (NSW).

The requirement to retrofit RCDs applies to workplaces where ‘plug in’ electrical equipment (electrical equipment supplied with electricity through a socket outlet) is used in the following operating environments:

  • electrical equipment is exposed to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment (or a reduction in its expected life span) including conditions that involve exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust
  • electrical equipment is moved between different locations in circumstances where damage to the equipment or to a flexible electricity supply cord is reasonably likely
  • electrical equipment is frequently moved during its normal use
  • electrical equipment forms part of, or is used with, an amusement device.

If electricity is supplied through a socket outlet that has a rating of up to and including 20 Amps, then the RCD must have a tripping current that does not exceed 30 milliamps.

Some special exemptions apply, for example where the electricy supplied from a socket:

  • does not exceed 50 volts alternating current
  • is direct current
  • is provided through an isolating transformer that provides at least an equivalent level of protection
  • is provided from a non earthed socket outlet supplied by an isolated winding portable generator that provides at least an equivalent level of protection.

New developments in RCD technology have meant that manufacturers can now supply a combined RCD and Circuit Breaker, in a single device known as an RCBO or an RCD/MCB combination. All the major manufacturers such as ABB, Schnieder (makers of Clipsal and Merlin Gerin), Legrand (HPM), Hager, Eaton (Cuttler-Hammer/ Quicklag), Heinemann, and NHP (Terasaki, MOD6) are now supplying 1-pole RCBOs up to 20A and some even up to 32A. 4-pole RCDs for 3-phase articles and socket outlets are also readily available.

This means that the single-phase Circuit Breakers in most commercial or industrial switchboards can be directly replaced with an RCD/MCB combination unit of the same size, which makes upgrading to RCDs on all power point circuits achievable and affordable for employers and building owners.

For 3-phase power points, often an easy solution is to upgrade the socket outlet itself to the type that incorporates an RCD.