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Substation Safety

This month’s Tailgate covers substation safety. Substations have a set of unique rules that are strictly enforced by the governing utility or municipality, known as the designated authority. This article is only a guide that outlines the basic requirements for personnel entering and working in a substation.

By design, substations have exposed energized buss work, which is often found in low proximity to the ground. Only qualified workers are allowed to perform and direct work; nonqualified workers must be under the supervision of a qualified worker. Extreme care should be taken when moving equipment or material within close proximity of all buss work.

General Access and Use of Substations
• Prior to entering a substation, contact the designated authority on a daily basis.
• A preliminary visit/walk-down may be required at the substation. At that time, parking sites, material drop sites, hazards and other issues can be addressed.
• For contractor personnel:
    – Know your contact person representing the utility or municipality.
    – The contact person’s phone number, pager number and other information should be on file with the designated authority and the project manager.
    – The contact person is responsible for meeting the expectations for substation site use.

Safety and Security
• All gates must be locked when working at and leaving the site.
• Only authorized personnel are allowed on the site.
• Obey all policies pertaining to alcohol, drugs and firearms while on substation property.
• Report any suspicious activity observed, such as a security or safety problem.
• Adhere to minimum clearances from energized equipment.

• Report your presence in the station to the designated authority each day. Do not assume that the designated authority is aware that you are working in the station that day. Have a line of communication established before the job starts.
• If required, enter appropriate information into the logbook upon arrival at the station each day. Typical information includes the station name, date and time, names of your crew members, the type of work being done, clearance (LOTO) numbers and any other information thought to be necessary.
• Hold a job briefing at the start of each workday, and then again any time the scope of work changes, when new members join the crew, and when something changes that could impact the job and safety. Document the information from this meeting as a record that the meeting took place.

Storage and Job Site Materials
• Any materials stored in the substation site must be kept neat and only in safe areas.
• Pickup and delivery must be in a safe manner and away from energized equipment.
• No hazardous material can be stored in a substation unless prior approval is given by the designated authority and proper documentation is provided or in place.
• All materials must be removed prior to leaving the substation when the job is completed.

• Any damage to property should be promptly reported.
• Particular attention must be paid to gates, fencing and lighting structures.

• When driving vehicles or equipment in substations, do not drive over cable covers covering underground cableways. These covers are not designed to carry heavy loads. Vehicles and equipment should only pass over trough covers at designated crossing areas where reinforcement or steel plates are placed.
• Trucks used in a substation shall be grounded per utility/municipality requirements.
• All vehicles in transit shall maintain minimum approach distances from equipment. An escort may be designated to assist the vehicle operator in guiding the vehicle and assuring proper minimum approach distances are maintained.
• While in transit, cranes and vehicles with booms shall cross under energized lines or busses with no load on the crane and with the boom in the cradle or lowered position.
• Parking of trucks, equipment, and personal vehicles should be in authorized and safe areas only.
• All driveways, walkways and access-ways must remain accessible and open.

Nonqualified Personnel
• Twenty feet is as close as nonqualified personnel should come to energized conductors and equipment.
• If nonqualified personnel need to get closer than 20 feet to energized conductors or equipment, they must contact their supervisor.
• A qualified representative or watchman must be provided and remain on the job until all work inside the 20-foot area is complete.
• Under no circumstance shall nonqualified personnel operate equipment closer than the minimum approach distance to energized aerial facilities regardless of the qualifications of others on the job, or the protection placed on the energized equipment. A qualified electrical worker will tell you the minimum approach distance.
• Following these rules may necessitate the relocation or de-energizing of certain aerial facilities in order for nonqualified employees to use their equipment.

Leaving Substations
• All trash and materials must be removed at the end of the job. Food trash should be removed daily to prevent rodent infestations.
• The designated authority must be notified by the contractor contact person when your group leaves the substation site.
• Sites should be left in the same condition found upon arrival.

By following these guidelines, you will establish good communication between workers and the substation owner/designated authority, which ensures that the scope of work is clearly communicated. Finally, always leave the substation in a condition that meets the owner’s expectations, and make certain it is secured to prevent harm to the public.

About the Author: John Boyle is vice president of safety and quality for INTREN, an electric, gas and telecommunication construction company based in Union, Ill. Boyle has more than 28 years of experience, and has worked in nuclear and wind power generation and electric and gas distribution.

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