Control Station Switches, Pendants and Indicators

What are Control Station Switches?

Control station switches are used to activate and deactivate machinery and other equipment in industrial settings. They sometimes hang from a pendant, which allows them to hang freely next to the machinery and which allows the operator to use the switch without being stuck behind a control board. Others may be mounted to a control board or to the machine itself.

Control station switches are often outfitted with housings and designs that are suited for the hazards to which they are exposed. For example, the housings are waterproof, which prevents them from being contaminated and which reduces the risk of electric shock. There are many different designs for these devices, some of them incorporating switches that require a key to activate and other designs that are intended to address specific needs related to safety, access and other concerns.

How does a Control Station Switch work?

A control switch can function as the master on/off for a piece of machinery, a piece of equipment that is part of a larger piece of machinery or an entire system. Most of these devices have two buttons on them. These buttons control the on/off function of the device to which they are attached and, quite often, the switch itself is a rocker design on the inside, providing a durable and reliable way to control machinery.

Some switches are provided with specific designs that make them particularly useful for safety applications. For instance, many emergency off switches have a mushroom shaped switch on them, making it easy to spot them from a distance and even easier to slam down the switch when machinery needs to be shut down quickly in a crisis.

Some control switches are fitted with additional insulation beyond what a regular switch would have, owing to being used in particularly dangerous environments. Some of the switches will also be designed so that an on and off switch are located on one part of the switch, with an emergency stop switch located in another location that is easily accessible but that also prevents it from being activated accidentally.

Specialty control switches sometimes have additional functions built into them. For instance, a control switch that is used to operate a hoist may have a raise and lower function included on the pendant to which the switch is attached.

Control switches are generally manually operated devices. There are more sophisticated switching systems used in industrial applications, but a great deal of machinery is outfitted with control switches that are either hung from pendants or affixed to the side of the device itself and that utilize simple switches to provide access to vital functions for the operator.

What are Control Station Switches used for?

Control switches are used for a wide variety of different functionalities. The most simple control switches are merely on and off switches, often affixed to a machine that is most safely operated from a bit of a distance back. In such cases, having the switch hanging from a pendant makes it much safer for the operator to activate the machine and, in the event of an emergency, the emergency shutoff switch is usually right under their hand.

Control switches can be used for more sophisticated functions, as well. For instance, indoor cranes and hoists can be controlled by these switches, allowing an operator to control the device without having to sit in a cab, merely watching the device operate while they hold the control switch in their hand. In such cases, the control switch may usually be outfitted with more control options and a larger pendant enclosure than a standard switch.

In many cases, the primary purpose of a control switch is safety. Emergency shutoff control switches are among the most common sites in any industrial setting. These control switches ensure that, if an emergency happens, an operator can always access the emergency shut off for the machine, completely de-power it and possibly end up saving someone's life in the process.

Control station switches usually have in common between all of them that they are durable, reliable and designed to take thousands of throws before they need to be replaced. Many of them are made out of materials that are specifically resistant to common industrial contaminants, allowing them to last a very long time in use without any degradation in performance.

What are Available Functions of Control Station Switches?

There are several different functions of control switches, allowing them to be used in many roles. There are also various markings used on control switches which are universal and make it easy for operators to understand the condition of the machine, simply by looking at the switch.


Down switches are normally labeled with the word "Down" and are designed to move a door, a piece of equipment or some other mechanical device to a position that would be generally understood as down. These are commonly found on heavy garage doors, hoists, cranes and other equipment that can move up or down.


Up switches are typically labeled with the word "Up" and perform exactly the opposite function of a down switch. The switches are designed to raise doors, hoists, cranes and other heavy equipment, and are often found hanging from a pendant, allowing the operator easy access.


Stop switches are utilized to arrest the operation of machinery or other equipment under normal operation. Many switches come with an up, down and stop switch. Stop switches are often colored red. The ones that are intended to be used under normal operation will typically not be as visibly marked as those that are intended for emergency stoppage. In some arrangements, and up or down switch may be depressed and the stop switch is utilized to shut down the machinery. In other cases, and up or down switch may automatically reset to an open position upon being released, in which case the stop switch is used for emergencies.


E-stop switches are designed primarily for safety. These are often provided with a mushroom shaped button that makes them easy to see and easy to press. In the event of an emergency, these buttons are generally designed so that they shut down all of the equipment to which they are attached, regardless of the condition of that equipment at the time. These devices are often separate from a regular stop switch and are usually placed in a location where they are easily accessible to anyone operating the equipment.


Start switches are commonly colored green and are usually labeled with their function. These switches can be used on just about any piece of machinery. They are typically not used on devices and machinery, however, that have a function that specifically moves up or down, simply to eliminate confusion.

I Marking

I Marking switches have the traditional "I" that denotes that they are in the on position. The marking is generally on the casing of the switch, allowing the switch itself to be replaced as needed. Many of these have a "0" marking on them as well, corresponding to the off position for the switch, as is often seen on computers.


Marking is often put on cases to clarify the function of the switch. This is particularly important in cases when a control switch may have several different buttons, such as when it is attached to a machine that may have a multitude of different functions within an industrial process. Control switches are often found lined up side-by-side on large panels, in which case the markings are even more important. Markings may be painted on the face of an enclosure, provided by affixing labels to an enclosure or pendant or provided by other means. Many different types of industrial switches and enclosures come with markings already inscribed on them, making it easy to mount the switch in the appropriate configuration and to ensure that the markings don't fade or get worn off with use or with exposure to the industrial environment.


Left control switches may refer to switches that are turned on by rotating the switch in the counterclockwise direction, rather than the usual clockwise direction or it may refer to switches that are installed on the left-hand side of a device – such as a forklift – to provide additional control.

What are Control Station Pendants?

Control station pendants provide protection and easy access to control station switches for machine operators. These pendants typically hang from a wire and are designed to hold up to whatever particular challenges are found in the environment where they are installed.

Control station pendants are typically sealed against the outside environment, which keeps the contacts on the switches safe. In some environments, they may be made out of metal, but plastic may be more appropriate for other environments. Control Station pendants, because they do hang freely from a wire, make it easy for operators to move around while they're operating machinery. They sometimes depend from moving machinery, allowing the operator to follow the machinery from one location to another, such as in cases where they depend from hoists and cranes that are used in warehouses to move cargo from one location to another.

What are Control Station Pendants used for?

Control station pendants provide protection and access. Because they are generally purchased separately from the switches that they house, the switches can be easily changed out and the pendant may be used for a very long time. These are really just housings, so they should hold up nearly indefinitely, provided they aren't exposed to anything particularly dangerous or that attacks the material of which they are manufactured.

What are Control Station Indicators?

Control station indicators provide feedback for operators. In some cases, the switches themselves may provide this feedback, having lighted faces that make it easy to tell whether they are activated. In other cases, the indicators may be on the pendant themselves, consisting of an up or down indicator, and on or off indicator and so forth. Emergency switches are typically provided with very visible indicators that let operators know exactly what the button is for and whether or not it is activated.

What are Control Station Indicators used for?

Control station indicators provide instant visual feedback. In many cases, they actually streamline the workflow process by letting operators instantly assess the condition of the machinery that they are in charge of and determine whether or not it is operational. They are also important safety features, obviously, as they can let people know whether or not a particular piece of machinery is turned on, a particular valve is opened and so forth.

What are Control Station Enclosures?

Control station enclosures provide protection and easy access to switches, buttons and so forth. These stations are often designed so that they can hold the control switches for several different pieces of machinery in one location. Machinery operators may spend most of their time working at these stations, monitoring the condition of the machinery that they are in charge of and turning it on and off as required.

The main difference between an enclosure and a pendant is that the enclosure is typically affixed to a solid surface, such as the side of the machinery itself. The enclosure may also be found on a wall next to the device that it provides control over, such as a garage door, hoist or other piece of industrial equipment. Enclosures are available in designs that have several buttons or one button. Most of the time, a one button enclosure will be used to house an emergency stop switch.

What are Control Station Enclosures used for?

The enclosures are principally utilize for safety, organization and convenience.. These enclosures are designed out of materials that are capable of holding up to very rugged use and environmental contaminants. They are often color-coded. For example, enclosures that hold emergency off switches are often colored yellow so that they stand out more from the background and are easier to find for operators.