MIDWEST had a customer call because they had an old Square D MAL361000 and it took forever to trip when they had a serious overload problem. He bet it took 3 minutes. This brought up a common misconception concerning how circuit breakers provide protection. When we provide Hands-On Safety Training, this is one of the items we are sure to cover. First of all, whether Square D circuit breakers, Cutler Hammer circuit breakers, GE General Electric circuit breakers, or Siemens circuit breakers, they are not designed to protect people directly. They are designed to protect connected equipment, yet not nuisance trip due to a non harmful transient event. By protecting equipment, circuit breakers consequentially protect people. His old Square D circuit breaker may have taken over 3 minutes to trip and it may have performed the way it was designed. Breakers have a performance specification called a “Time Current Curve,” TCC. In basic terms, whether Westinghouse circuit breakers or ABB circuit breakers, they do not trip immediately at the trip setting. A 1000 amp circuit breaker does not trip right away at 1000 amps or even 1500 or 2000 amps. As a matter of fact, an old 1000 amp Square D MA circuit breaker may have a trip range of 45 seconds to 340 seconds when overloaded with 3000 amps, 300%. In basic terms, it should not trip in less the 45 seconds and may take as long as 340 seconds to trip. This may seem crazy but, again, it is designed to protect the equipment connected to it while not nuisance tripping. The same breaker would have an instantaneous setting which would determine at what current value the circuit breaker would trip immediately. But, if that setting is over 300%, ie 3000 amps, the breaker would cook for a long time before tripping. By that time you can smell the breaker overheating.