Years ago, a rare event happened in the service area of the company I was working for at the time. Sea fog had rolled in and blanketed most of the system along the coastline where the generation was located. It contaminated the insulators and tripped major circuits everywhere. All of the substation and line crews worked hard to clean the insulators and get the system restored. It took a full day to get the system back to normal, during which all of us learned a great deal about insulation. One crew in particular will probably always remember that day. While they were getting ready to switch out a section of 230-kV bus in a substation, electricity tracked down the insulator right above their heads. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was a lot of high stepping and gravel flying.
Nearly everyone reading this has worked with insulators of various sizes and shapes. For me, it was in substations. You learn to trust the equipment with your life. What prompted this article was a website discussion I read about best practices for maintaining and cleaning insulators and bushings for testing. There were some interesting suggestions. The question is, how do we know where to get the correct information to help us in our work? Safety is our primary guide. Our second guide should be manufacturer guidelines. In the early years of our industry, we were instructed to “go do it” and not given much direction or specifics about how to perform the tasks we were assigned. So, we used a variety of methods and materials to clean and install insulators. Some were good, others not so much. But today we have the world at our fingertips: websites, phone numbers and access to almost any kind of information from a variety of sources. The problem remains, however – we must know how to determine if we have and are using the correct information.