Every year in the UK around 70 people die and 350,000 are injured as a result of electrical accidents at home.  A Government report also indicated that, each year, about 4,000 fires caused by electricity in homes might have been prevented if RCD protection had been fitted in the consumer unit.  Despite this, more than half of UK homes – that’s 13 million – don’t yet have any, or an adequate level of, such additional protection. An RCD, or residual current device, is a life-saving device which is designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It can also provide some protection against electrical fires. RCDs offer a level of personal protection that ordinary fuses and circuit-breakers cannot provide.

What does an RCD do?

  • switches off electricity automatically if there is a fault (for example if you accidentally chopped through the hedge trimmer cable).
  • protects against the risks of electrocution and fire caused by earth faults.  For example if a faulty appliance overheats causing electric current to flow to earth.

How does it work?

An RCD constantly monitors the electric current flowing through one or more circuits it is used to protect. If it detects electricity flowing down an unintended path, such as through a person who has touched a live part, the RCD will switch the circuit off very quickly, significantly reducing the risk of death or serious injury.

Is it a requirement to install RCDs?

In 2008 a new edition of the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations, BS 7671, came into effect. This standard calls for virtually all electrical circuits installed in homes since then to be provided with additional protection by means of an RCD.