Substation safety

Updated February 21, 2017

Electrical substations are utility devices located between a generation plant and the consumers who use the plant's electricity. The substations are connected to the grid through power lines. Using transformers, substations transform voltage from high to low and vice versa in order to fit the voltage requirements of the receiver. They are often located near homes and businesses, and several safety precautions should be followed when living near them.

Restricted Access

Most substations are surrounded by tall fences marked with bright signs, though some in rural areas are indoors. The signs on the fences note the danger in the substation and forbid access to unauthorised personnel. If a child's kite, ball or other toy is accidentally lost in a substation area, do not retrieve it yourself. Call the electric company associated with the substation and ask them to help you to retrieve the belonging. Do not touch or climb fences near substations, and never attempt to retrieve an object using a pole or net. If the pole is made of metal or is even slightly damp, it can conduct electricity found in a rogue charge. When the lineman arrives, do not attempt to accompany him into the substation area. Describe the lost object and wait outside the fence while he retrieves it. To avoid encounters with substations altogether, encourage children to play at least half a mile away from the substation especially when flying kites or throwing balls or toys.

Requirements for Access

Linemen who enter the substation must follow strict safety requirements. They must wear a hard hat, safety shoes, safety glasses and special dry gloves designed to withstand electric charges. All safety equipment must be properly rated for use near the substation's measured voltage. Prior to entry, the area must be assessed for any dangerous situations. The gate must be locked and tripping hazards must be removed. Additionally, while inside the substation, all linemen must be monitored to avoid the accidental endangerment of those inside. Most importantly, the substation's equipment must be properly grounded to avoid excessive charges from building up and discharging. When working on lines in the substation or the neighbouring community, the lineman must pull the wire disconnects in order to remove voltage from the wire. This is the only time the lineman will ever come in contact with a high-voltage circuit.

Power Lines

While you may not live near an electric substation, chances are that you have power lines running through your neighbourhood. These lines are directly connected to the substation and are equally dangerous. Downed power lines should never be touched or approached. If one lands on your vehicle, remain in the car until help arrives. If the emergency requires you to leave the vehicle, jump from the car to the pavement to avoid electric shock. Hop at least 30 feet away with your feet close together and stay away from any objects that may have touched the power line, including fences and walls.

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About the Author

Lauren Treadwell studied finance at Western Governors University and is an associate of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Treadwell provides content to a number of prominent organizations, including Wise Bread, FindLaw and Discover Financial. As a high school student, she offered financial literacy lessons to fellow students.