Fire Safety and Switchboards: What are the risks?

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When it comes to fire safety and switchboards, three of the most prevalent risks are heat stress, inadequate fire protection and asbestos.

Common Problems

1. Signs of heat stress

Blackened insulation on cables or protective devices can be an indicator of electrical arcing or overloading. This could be due to poor installation, age/damage or under-sized cabling, and is an immediate fire risk.

Burnt switchboard component
Burnt RCD caused by incorrect wiring in a switchboard

2. Not properly fire sealed

Australian electrical safety regulations require all switchboards to be properly fire sealed. This prevents fire from spreading to other areas of your house if a fire starts in the switchboard. To properly seal a switchboard a fire rated sealant is applied to all the holes/cable entries so that all possible pathways for fire to enter the home are eliminated.

3. Asbestos

Asbestos was used in switchboards throughout Australia until the 1980s because of its fire-resistant properties. Due to the disastrous health consequences, asbestos is now a banned substance throughout Australia and much of the world. While asbestos is not directly an ‘electrical’ risk, it is a substance that unfortunately electricians frequently come into contact with and therefore the risks of dealing with it must be managed.

Asbestos that is crumbling/flaking or requires disturbance for works/maintenance must be safely removed by a licensed asbestos removalist. If you suspect that asbestos is present in your switchboard or elsewhere in your home, don’t risk your health by disturbing it! Contact a licensed asbestos removalist like AW Removals for advice. Kenner Electrics will always take care around asbestos and we have a strict ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy which means we will not cut, drill or break asbestos in your home. This ensures the safety of our workers and the people in your home.

Asbestos in switchboard
Asbestos panelling in a switchboard enclosure

4. Damaged switchboard

If any of the protective devices or switchboard panel is cracked or damaged, there is a risk that it could expose live electrical parts. This creates a risk of electric shock if any live parts come into contact with humans.

Why Upgrade?

  • Reduce the risk of fires spreading to other parts of your home by having your switchboard fire sealed
  • Ensure your family are not exposed to asbestos fibres from switchboards in older homes

Not sure if your switchboard complies with fire safety standards? Give Kenner Electrics a call on (03) 9996 0663.

On the job, Kenner Electrics electricians keep a look out for tell-tale signs of fire risk in your switchboard and other areas of your home. We offer a free Home Electrical Safety Inspection to all our residential customers when we come to your home to complete a job, so you can have peace of mind that your home is safe.

All electrical work should only be undertaken by a licensed electrician, so if you have any concerns about the state of your switchboard, please call an electrician to inspect it.