The Unsung Hero of M&E Sector Safety

The Mechanical and Electrical industry is renowned for its inherent hazards and the potential for operative injury. In many ways, this element of risk is what draws people to the sector, as M&E operatives require an exceptional level of skill, training, caution and expertise when working with electricity and electrical equipment.

While common sense will always prevail in the M&E environment (as anything less has rather significant consequences), sometimes a single invention can revolutionise risk management, creating an industry milestone which surges safety and productivity ahead to an unparalleled level.

For the M&E sector, the safety item which has achieved this quantum leap forward is arguably the small but powerful Residual Current Device. As operatives in the sector know, the RCD has probably been the life-saving hero of millions of people working with electricity. Reducing shocks, detecting faults in the electrical system and promptly shutting down supply, the RCD’s tripping current is often the first indication to an M&E operative that their electrical system is unsafe.

The birth of a new era in electrical safety

The first rudimentary RCD was invented by a gentleman named Henri Rubin, in South Africa. The device was developed in response to the country’s growing concerns about operative safety while working deep underground mining for gold. In 1955, Rubin developed a 525v high-sensitivity earth leakage protection system, using his expertise as an engineer to address the issues of safe working in the mines.

From there, Rubin refined and enhanced his invention to the point where he achieved the equivalent of the RCD we know today, complete with a circuit breaker, overcurrent and protection against short-circuit. He improved his model to enable a lower degree of trip sensitivity in the event of interrupted neutral, which was a key cause of electrical fires.

As Rubin’s invention became more well known, it was adopted globally as an additional safety measure; an integral element of the wider electrical system that has subsequently saved countless lives through its fault detection.

It’s good, but it’s not perfect…

Despite the absolute genius of Rubin’s invention, the mighty RCD is still not a complete safety system for M&E operatives. Having the correct PPE and knowing how, when and where to deploy it is as fundamental to the sector’s safety standards. To add to the safety of electrical working, head over to our catalogue and complement Mr. Rubin’s design with some additional PPE!