RCD’s & Leads – protection against electrical shock

Electricity is a familiar and necessary part of our everyday lives, but if the risks are not effectively managed, it can be extremely dangerous, causing serious injury to people and damage to property.

It’s important you identify electrical hazards onsite, assess the risks and implement suitable control measures. Below is some important information in relation to using residual current devices, leads and cords on construction sites. 

Residual Current Devices (RCDs) 

An RCD is an electrical safety device designed to immediately switch off the supply of electricity when electricity ‘leaking’ to earth is detected at harmful levels. RCDs offer high levels of personal protection from electric shock.

There are three types of RCD:

Fixed at the switchboard

  • A switchboard RCD is the best option in most situations. It protects all the electrical wiring and appliances supplied from that circuit. 
  • An electrician must install a switchboard RCD.

Built into the power point

  • A socket-outlet RCD is built into a standard power point to provide protection to equipment plugged into that power point and, if required, downstream protection of other power points. 
  • An electrician must install a socket-outlet RCD.


  • A portable RCD can be moved from power point to power point as needed. There are a few different types of portable RCD: 
    • Some plug directly into a power point. An appliance or extension lead then plugs into the portable RCD. 
    • Some are built into extension leads or individual appliance leads. 
    • Some are built into Portable socket-outlet assemblies (PSOAs). 
  • No electrician is needed – you can buy a portable RCD at a hardware shop or from an electrical equipment supplier, just make sure it is fit for purpose. 


Keep you and your team safe while working around electricity by checking your RCD regularly. Across Australia, the testing frequency is based off the standard,  AS/NZS 3012:2019 which sets the specific requirements for construction sites and states:

  • Portable RCDs are to be push button tested daily before every use and an operating time test is to be performed by a competent person every 3 months. 
  • Fixed RCDs are to be push button tested 1 month and an operating time test is to be performed by a competent person every 12 months.

If an RCD is tested and found to be faulty it must be taken out of service immediately and replaced as soon as possible.

Leads and Cords

Leads and cords are easily damaged, particularly those connected to equipment that is often moved. Make sure leads and cords are suitably set up and protected: 

  • Protect leads and cords from damage. Protection may include drop-over cable protectors, cord covers, non-conductive lead hooks, and cable ramps. Damage can be caused by: 
    • Sharp edges and sharp objects 
    • Boots or other footwear 
    • Doors 
    • Moving vehicles 
    • Other mechanical forces 
    • Water, oil, grease, and other liquids 
    • Heat. 
  • Arrange leads and cords so that people won’t trip on them. 
  • Avoid running leads across aisles or passages. 
  • Raise leads up rather than running them across the ground. Raised leads and plugs should be easy for workers to reach without a ladder. 
  • Ensure that leads and cords are checked prior to use for damage and it is also recommended that they are tested and tagged regularly by a competent person.

Testing and Tagging of leads and cords

Inspection, testing and tagging of electrical leads and cords on construction sites are required to be completed every 3 months* by a competent person. 

Any lead or cord that is damaged or that fails testing is to be immediately taken out of use and removed offsite. If you cannot promptly remove it offsite, consider other means like attaching a durable out of service tag so as to warn workers not to use that piece of equipment.

Monitor and Review

When you complete your regular Site Reviews using the HazardCo App, make sure that you are checking RCD’s and all other electrical equipment are in good working condition and are regularly inspected and tested. 

Further Information 

If you have any questions in regards to this topic or need more support , reach out to HazardCo and speak to one of our expert Health and Safety Advisors. You can contact us on 1800 954 702.

*For Hire equipment, inspection is required prior to each hire and testing is carried out at least monthly. If hire equipment remains on the construction site then the frequency listed applies.