Not so long ago, it was customary for workers to be expected to operate in areas and situations that were inherently unsafe. Thanks to the advent of health and safety regulations – and no matter how much we rue their existence – this is no longer the case. However, that does not mean that there are some places that are still dangerous, and in which people have to work.
Take electricity, for example; we all know that it can be dangerous when it is not carefully used, and in high-voltage situations this is ever-more the case. Our electricity network is a wonderful thing, and enables the transference of power from power stations, the source, to the end user at home or in commercial or industrial premises. Along the way it must pass through a substation – an environment that, by its very nature, is inherently dangerous – so let’s have a look at what can be done to ensure the safety of those who need to be within a substation at any time.
The substation is a place where very high voltage electricity – the raw material if you like – is reduced to that which can be used in the home, office or factory. It does so by way of transformers. Substations are generally unmanned, but do need maintenance and visits to ensure that they are fault-free and running correctly.
It is a certainty that nobody without the relevant authority should be permitted within the confines of a substation. The voltages involved can cause serious injury, and even death. It’s not for nothing that they are often labelled with a warning sign reading ‘danger of death’. There are also other dangers present in substations.
For example, if a fault is present that cannot be seen, it can cause higher than safe voltages; this can cause excess heat, which in itself can be a problem – fire in a substation can be disastrous. That’s why certain precautions need to be taken.
Anyone entering a substation should be fully trained in the use of equipment that can be used to determine where such faults may be present. This includes the use of PAT testing equipment, which can see if voltage or amperage is unusual, and thermal imaging equipment, which can detect areas of excess heat. It goes without saying that they should also be wearing protective clothing, to protect against burns and the possibility of electric shock.
PAT testers are relatively simple devices that can be used to measure electrical current, and will immediately tell the operative if something is wrong on that count. Thermal Imagers are even more useful, and should be a staple of any substation operative’s tool kit.
A thermal imaging scope or camera works by identifying the heat source of objects in view. It produces a thermal diagram, known as a thermogram, that can be viewed on the viewfinder. This will show where the hottest areas are in bright colours. This is useful in a substation as it can show the operative if there is a particular area that is in fact hotter than it should be – a certain indication of an electrical fault that can be dangerous.
All of these are reasons why only authorised personnel, and those trained in the use of thermal imagers, PAT testers and other special equipment, should be allowed within the confines of a substation, and you can enrol your team on a LOTO training course too for added safety.
Where danger is present it is always wise to be cautious and protected, so make sure you take all the precautions you can.