Safety Switches vs Circuit Breakers: What Are the Differences?

Home Safety Switches vs Circuit Breakers: What Are the Differences?

As businesses continue to grow, their reliance on technology increases. This means that safety is a top priority, and businesses need to make sure that all of their technology is up to par when it comes to safety. One way to achieve this is to use safety switches and circuit breakers.

Safety switches and circuit breakers are the two top devices that every business or household should have installed to prevent any mishaps. It is better to know your market before your invest in these items and therefore knowing the difference between safety switches and circuit breakers will help one make an informed decision.

What is a safety switch?

A neutral safety switch
Source: Pinterest

A safety switch is a piece of equipment made to guard against electric shock from electricity flowing through a place’s wiring. They function by disconnecting the electricity from the electrical sources the moment a fault arises. Therefore, a safety switch prevents any kind of threatening situation. 

For instance, if there is a faulty condition of the wiring and by any chance, a particular wire comes in contact with an individual, the safety switch immediately detects the same and cut-offs the power flowing through the device. However, it has to be noted that the safety switch can not always be responsible for the protection against electric shocks, therefore, personal safety is important. 

Safety switches can be installed on individual power outlets or on a switchboard, however, switchboard installations are more popular.

How to test a safety switch

A regular check on the safety switch is a must, to ensure the smooth functioning of the safety device. Each safety switch consists of a ‘Test’ button that is meant for its testing. Open the safety switch and press the test key present. If there is a trip in the power, it indicates that the safety switch is working appropriately. 

Types of Safety Switches 

Power Safety Switch
Source: Pinterest

Three different types of safety switches are available, categorized depending on the level of protection they offer. 

Switchboard Safety Switch- Electrical circuits, electrical appliances, and extension cords are primarily protected by switchboard safety switches or meter box-mounted safety switches. They must be installed by an electrician with a license.

Powerpoint Safety Switches- Appliances and electrical cords that are plugged into powerpoint safety switches are protected. The first powerpoint next to the switchboard should have the powerpoint safety switches installed.

Portable Safety Switches- As its name implies, portable safety switches are safeguards used for electrical appliances and power tools that cannot be connected to switchboard or powerpoint safety switches and must be plugged directly into them.


The safety switch instantly identifies any kind of abnormalities in the electrical device be it leakage or a short circuit, it aids in preventing accidents and injuries by countering the effect of the malfunctioning. It stops the current from reaching the faulty part of the equipment. They are employed in a variety of commercial and industrial contexts, including factories, warehouses, and building sites.

The on/off switch and a circuit breaker are typically the two components of a safety switch. The circuit breaker is used to safeguard the device from unintentional overloads or malfunctions, whereas the on/off switch is used to turn off power to the device.

It is important to identify which component corresponds to which set of instructions before using a safety switch. For instance, if the instructions state that one should use the on/off switch to turn off the electricity, it should be done so. 

Application And Importance 

AT Neutral Safety Switch
Source: Pinterest

A safety switch is a device that helps to protect people from electrical hazards such as leakage or overcharged electricity. It’s usually a small, portable box that is attached to the power outlet in order to stop electricity from flowing when there’s no one using it.

A safety switch is important for two main reasons: first, it can prevent injuries if someone gets electrical shocks while using the power outlet; and second, it can help preserve equipment by stopping the flow of electricity when it’s not needed.

Safety switches are becoming increasingly popular in countries where there are often high levels of electrical accidents. They’re also becoming more common in Europe and North America, as these regions move away from traditional electrical systems towards more modern ones that use safety switches

What is a circuit breaker?

Electrical Circuit Breaker
Source: Pinterest

An electrical circuit breaker is a switching mechanism for managing and safeguarding an electrical power system that can be used both manually and automatically. A circuit breaker should be specially designed to be able to safely interrupt the arc produced during the shutting of a circuit breaker because the modern power system deals with extremely high currents. The basic description of a circuit breaker was as follows.

Working Of A Circuit Breaker

Circuit breaker 1
Source: Beny

A circuit breaker has two crucial contacts, and they are:

  • Fixed contacts
  • Moving contacts

The contacts touch each other and transport the current when the circuit is closed, which is a typical state. Current-carrying contacts in closed circuit breakers are referred to as electrodes because they make contact with one another under the force of a spring.

By either opening or closing the circuit breaker’s arms, the switching and maintenance of the system are handled. By pulling the trigger, the circuit breaker is opened. The trip coil of the breaker becomes electrified and moves when a bad current is running through any section of the system.

Types of circuit breakers 

Double pole circuit breaker
Source: Pinterest

Overloading or overcharging current can cause severe damage to the electrical system. Furthermore, there might be higher chances of fire, in case the system is not repaired. To prevent such a scenario altogether, circuit breakers are installed in the circuit and immediately prevent the flow of current in case of a short circuit of a ground fault. Based on their functions and operations the circuit breakers can be divided into four different categories. 

Standard Single Pole Breaker- This type of circuit breaker mainly provides protection to a single circuit unit that might be the source of the power of particular equipment or in a specific part of the home. They can provide protection to up to 15 amp to 20 amp circuits. Under normal conditions, this type of breaker is placed in the circuit and functions like an open gate allowing the electricity to flow through the different parts. 

In case of overloading or a fault this gate or the breaker immediately closes to prevent further power flow that might lead to greater damage. One can easily re-use this breaker after getting the system repaired and bringing it back to normal conditions. 

Standard Double Pole Breaker- The functioning of the double pole breakers are similar to the single pole ones, the only difference is that they can protect greater equipment such as air conditioners or refrigerators. Since the larger appliances cannot operate with just one hot wire, it requires two wires to obtain the appropriate amount of current for working. 

Thus, the double pole breaker has the capacity to accept two wires and protect against any overcharging or short circuit. It is larger in size as compared to the single pole breaker and consists of the handles that allow an individual to reset the hot wires the moment these breakers trip. 

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)- One of the main purposes of this kind of breaker is to provide protection against a severe electrical fault known as the ground fault. The ground fault mainly occurs when the power undesirably enters the ground through conductive materials, such as a metal pipe or any other appliance in that case. 

In such a scenario, the GFCI identifies the amount of current flowing out of the load and the amount returning back to the panel. The standard difference between these two should be upto six milliamps, in case there is an increase in this difference, the GFCI, instantly stops the flow of current. 

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)- This type of circuit monitors the functioning of the circuits to detect any kind of hazardous malfunctioning in the electrical arcs. An arc is created between the conducting devices when there is a loose connection and the path of the current flow is diverted towards another wire. This arc has the potential of catching fire, in other words, any combustible material present nearby the arc can immediately catch fire. The AFCI identifies such unintentional arcs and instantly prevents the flow of current through the circuit. 

Application And Importance 

Circuit Breaker Panel
Source: Pinterest

Circuit breaker safety has a wide range of electrical applications, such as in railway lines, small transformers, high voltage equipment, and many more. 

Electric overloads or short circuits produce a high amount of heat that can not only cause damage to the system but also be life-threatening. Circuit breakers are significant for any such electrical device, as it can prevent the occurrence of major electrical damage. Each breaker works in a specific manner, it is the main circuit breaker that can withstand the higher amperage. 

How To Test A Circuit Breaker?

The safety circuit breaker does not require frequent maintenance as compared to the safety switch, however, it has to be noted that this electrical device has to withstand high voltage in case of any electrical malfunctioning. Thus, testing the circuit breaker becomes quite significant. It can be checked in different ways mentioned below.

  • Open and close the breaker several times to test its mechanical ability. 
  • Temperature rise is practiced to check the thermal capacity and behavior of the breaker.
  • Sudden shocks are provided to test whether the breaker can protect against the shocks and faults. 

A Combination: RCD

600V1000V DC Combiner Box
Source: Beny

Both safety switches and circuit breakers are important safety devices that should be installed during any electrical installation. However, they have different advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when making a decision about which one to use.

A combination switch is a device that combines the features of a safety switch and a circuit breaker. This makes it the best option for installations that require both types of protection. It’s also the most versatile, as it can be used to protect either single or multiple circuits. 

The main downside of this type of switch is that it’s more expensive than either a safety switch or a circuit breaker, and it can take longer to install. Additionally, it may not be compatible with some older electrical systems. 

On the other hand, a circuit breaker is the simplest type of safety device and is usually less expensive than either a safety switch or combo switch. They’re also faster to install and easier to use, especially if for protecting one or two circuits.

Differences Between Safety Switch And Circuit Breaker

C series Double Pole Circuit Breaker 1
Source: Pinterest

When it comes down to it, the key distinction between any device is what or who it protects. Electricity flow is monitored by safety switches, which immediately turn off the power if a leak is found. However, the primary purpose of this apparatus is human safety. Humans are primarily protected against electric shocks, burns, and even death by it.

In addition, even though a property may have a circuit breaker, they still need a safety switch to keep everyone inside the house or workplace safe.

What about the breakers, then? Additionally, these devices are able to swiftly interrupt the flow of power when electrical units are overloaded. However, they are included in the switchboards to safeguard the wiring and system from harm.

They guard against Powerpoint overload and stop fires and wire burning. However, they do not shield people from electricity the way a safety switch does. To put it simply, a safety switch manages electrical overload for human safety, whereas a circuit breaker manages it for wire and system safety.

Typical Circuit Breaker Issues

Mini Circuit Breaker
Source: Beny

Any appliance may be impacted by damaged wires or improper installation, and they may even become irreparably broken. By looking for flickering lights, smoke coming from power outlets, or issues with appliances, one can find wire faults.

Additionally, a circuit overload may occur if there are too many gadgets plugged into one outlet. Any gadget should be able to manage a specific amount of amps, but if that amount is exceeded, the appliances will suffer.

It is difficult to estimate the amount of electricity that is used in a place. However, if there are issues with gadgets or electrical equipment, it is best to seek professional assistance so they can examine the circuit board and breakers.

Typical Issues with Safety Switches

Safety Switch Protection Cover
Source: Pinterest

When there is a strain from providing electricity to too many devices, safety switches experience problems. When several appliances in the home are operating concurrently, the safety switch could overload and cut off the energy. Electrical tripping is a condition that frequently occurs in residential dwellings. Water damage and malfunctioning appliances can potentially trigger switches.

Numbers Of Safety Switches And Circuit Breakers Required

Inside of a Circuit Breaker
Source: Pinterest

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the number of safety switches and circuit breaks that we need will vary depending on the specific environment and needs of the organization. However, in general, most organizations require somewhere between 1 and 10 safety switches per 100 employees. And, typically, they’ll also require anywhere from 1 to 5 circuit breakers per 100 employees.

Installation Of Safety Switch And Circuit Breaker

Installation of a circuit breaker 1
Source: Pinterest

Similar to the other differences the installation procedure of both differs to a great extent. Thus it is significant to know about it in detail. 

Safety Switch

Safety switch installation is simple, however, a professional installer is required. All Australian residences are required by law to have safety switches installed on all electrical circuits, including lighting circuits, as of 1992.

Remember that putting in only one safety switch per property might not be sufficient to give the security that is required. Each sub-circuit, including those that power fixed electrical equipment like hot water heaters and air conditioners, should have safety switches installed.

In addition, electrical devices connected to the circuit that could distort the AC waveform must not interfere with the safety switch’s functionality.

Checking the installation date code on the switch plate is the most effective approach to determine whether safety switches have been installed in any residence. This code can assist to determine any installation-related issues and will let the user know when the switch was installed.

Circuit Breakers 

Circuit breakers will be powered down one at a time, starting with the branch circuit breakers, and then the main panel. To make sure the power is turned off, a voltage tester will be utilized.

Look for any indications of moisture, burns, or loose connections throughout the entire panel. To replace the breakers, loosen the wiring and terminal screws.

Install the new circuit breaker in its proper place. Set screws firmly in place. All the other circuit breakers should be examined, and if necessary, replaced. Reinstall panel covers with screws.

The main switch should be turned on first, then each circuit breaker. Make sure the power has been fully restored by using.

Regular Testing

Breaker Box safety
Source: Pinterest

It’s important to keep the safety switches and circuit breakers working properly to avoid dangerous electrical incidents.

Regular testing is the best way to ensure that the safety switches and circuit breakers are functioning as they should. This involves testing them regularly in order to identify any problems early on before they become serious. This can be done by using a diagnostic tool like an encoder or by plugging in an ohmmeter to measure the resistance of the switch or breaker. If there are any abnormalities, then take corrective action right away.

By keeping the safety switches and circuit breakers functioning properly, it is possible to avoid any potentially deadly accidents.


A series Flat Rocker Circuit Breaker
Source: Pinterest

When it comes to cost, safety switches (also known as circuit breakers) are generally more expensive than circuit breakers. This is because safety switches are designed to interrupt power in the event of an emergency, while circuit breakers are only meant to interrupt power if it’s accidentally triggered.

Another cost consideration when picking a safety switch or breaker is the lifespan of the unit. Safety switches typically have a shorter lifespan than circuit breakers, which means that they need to be replaced more often.


Both of these products provide great features and benefits. However, the switch should be used if there is a chance of an accidental fall as it is protected by a safety cover. Both safety switches and circuit breakers are designed to protect from electrical shocks. However, the differences between them are quite obvious. So, before buying a security device, it is advisable to consider all these differences and choose accordingly. 

Refer to to get a detailed overview of their functioning and the possible solutions to the different electrical hazards.

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