A similar system, usually called a dead man's switch (for other names, see alternative names), as its name suggests, is a device intended to stop a machine (or activate one) if the human operator becomes incapacitated, and is a form of fail-safe. They are commonly used in industrial applications (e.g., locomotives, tower cranes, freight elevators) and consumer applications (e.g., lawn mowers, tractors, personal water craft, outboard motors, snowblowers, motorcycles and snowmobiles). The switch in these cases is held by the user, and turns off the machine if they let go. Some riding lawnmowers have a kill switch in the seat which stops the engine and blade if the operator's weight is no longer on the seat.
2. Pioneer era planes and World War I aircraft
Early aviators using rotary engine-powered aircraft from the beginnings of their use in 1908, up through the end of World War I in 1918 had what could be called a reversed functionality version of the "dead man's switch" for cutting the ignition voltage to the spark plugs on such a power-plant, to give a degree of in-flight speed control for a rotary engine. This was often called a "blip switch" or "coupe switch" (from the French term coupez, or "cut") and when not being pressed, allowed the high voltage from the engine's magnetos to operate the ignition with normal engine operation in flight — pressing the "blip switch" cut the flow of high voltage from the magnetos, stopping the combustion process in the cylinders. When such a "blip switch" was intermittently used on landing approach, this allowed a limited degree of engine speed control, as rotary engines generally did not have a conventional throttle in their carburettors to regulate engine speed, but only for governing the fuel-air ratio for start-up and full-speed operation.
3. Industrial machinery
The arrows indicate that the stop button must be turned to reset the switch before the equipment can be restarted.
On large industrial machines, an emergency stop button is typically located on the panel, and possibly in several other areas of the machine. Often, an emergency stop is made wireless using a remote control. This provides a rapid means to disconnect the energy source of the device to protect workers. For fail-safe operation, the emergency stop button is a normally closed switch, which ensures that a broken wire will not prevent it from being activated, but may accidentally activate the emergency stop.
In the European Union, most types of machinery are required to be equipped with an emergency stop according to the Directive 2006/42/EC. Exceptions apply for machinery in which an emergency stop would not lessen the risk as well as for portable hand-held/hand-guided machinery.
4. Nuclear power plants
Main article: Scram
A kill switch in a nuclear reactor plant is called SCRAM. It is usually cited as being an acronym for safety control rod axe man.
5. Machine tools
The kill switch is also used on such things as band saws and static belt sanders, pillar drills and lathes.