There are many reasons why substations are dangerous places. To begin with, there is the foremost problem of very high voltage electrical equipment, which can be volatile at best. This is why only authorised personnel are permitted within the confines of a substation.
Consider what a substation is: it’s part of a network of equipment that transfers electricity from the power station to the point of use (or, in some cases, private substations can be used to regulate power output on site). Within it, among other items, will be a series of transformers.
Transformers are used to alter the voltage of the electricity that is carried through the cables from the power station, which will be at a very high voltage. If that electricity reached our homes at such high voltage, the result could be devastating – and you would need a whole new house-full of appliances at the very least!
Usually, a transformer reduces the voltage to that used domestically (or in industrial premises, sometimes to various higher voltages). The dangers of high voltage equipment are well-known, so substations are a vert dangerous place to be for authorised and experienced persons, never mind those who should not be there.
What safety precautions should be put in place? Let’s start by talking about LOTO.
What is LOTO?
LOTO is the acronym for ‘lockout-tagout’. This is a procedure used widely in many different areas of industry to protect against the unauthorised use of equipment, or entry to dangerous premises or areas. It is actually a very simple idea, but one that has many benefits in protecting against potential injury in substations.
The LOTO procedure effectively locks out personnel from entering the substation. It can also be used with heavy plant and machinery to ensure that they are not started or operated by persons who do not have the correct experience or authorisation. This is why you shout turn to Lockout Safety for LOTO training
In the case of substations, it works – in simplified form – as follows: a designated person holds a set of special locks and tags – and, of course, keys – that they apply to the entry to the substation when they are the last man out after work has been completed. The tag contains all the information about the individual concerned, and other info as required.
Once locked, only the person named on the tag – the keyholder – can then reopen the substation. This cannot be over-ruled or changed in any circumstances. Hence, no unauthorised persons should be able to access the substation under normal circumstances.
In the case of heavy plant or other machinery, the power source is locked out, so that restart cannot occur except when the designated operative is present. It is a failsafe system that has widespread use, and one that makes the substation – and the workplace – a safer place all-round.
The dangers of working within a substation cannot be overstated; very high voltage machinery is always dangerous, and the injuries caused can be fatal. Indeed, you may have seen signs on local substations reading ‘Danger of Death’; they are there for a very good reason.
You should pick your authorised LOTO personnel from those who are trained in the dangers of working within the substation, as they will be able to understand what is involved. There are training courses available that will teach them everything about the procedure – both for substation and other industrial use – including what they need to fill in on the tags and more.
It is essential that you also equip your workforce with the right protective clothing, so it may be worth investigating that while you are looking into training for the LOTO procedure.