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Substation inspections are important in that they detect problems that not only could be deadly or injurious to employees, but also to the community at large. As Tennessee Valley Authority staff system engineer Mark B. Goff points out, communication is the key ingredient to the success of any inspection program. Each substation inspection must start with an entrance meeting to discuss safety concerns with the management of the station, and end with an exit conference to talk about any discrepancies the inspectors discovered. Although each substation is slightly different, below are some safety issues that frequently arise in inspections.
Yard and Fencing
Check the yard of the substation. According to Registered Safety Professional Wayne Pardy, you should also observe the fencing around the building. Note any holes or signs that excavation has taken place underneath the fence. The gate locks must be secure and in working order, and the grounding mass must not be visible. There must be no protruding wires in the area as they are an electric shock hazard. Also, the yard should be free of trash, debris and unused materials on the lawn. Ensure that hazard signs are readable, visible and conspicuous.
Ensure that the buildings are in good condition, and have properly functioning locks, and that the building itself is appropriately locked. Look for any tears, leaks or holes in any part of the buildings. Check for the presence of working washing facilities, such as bathrooms, and make sure that they have toilet paper, soap, sanitizer and an eyewash sink. Make sure any personal protective equipment (PPE) is present and handy.
General Public Safety
See that the appropriate danger signs are visible and legible. A correctly-run facility has a sign on the fence that says, "Danger: High Voltage," so people will know not to enter the sub station without the proper protection, and not at all without proper authorization. The sign should inform them that death or serious injury awaits them if they attempt to violate these policies.
Equipment in an Enclosed Area
Observe the grounding sticks. See that the building officials are using proper storage techniques. Ensure that these sticks are functional, with no cracks or bad clamps. Check the rackout motors for proper storage and accessibility. Test the circuit breaker to see if it properly functions. Focus on the indicator lights, to see if the bulb is functioning, or in need of replacement. Look at the doors and check whether they are locked and in working order.
Switches, Transformers and Buses
Check the disconnect switches, buses and transformers. They should be locked and appropriately tagged. Also look for broken insulators or lightning arrestors on the overhead bus. Look at the substation potheads--which are pot-shaped insulators that connect underground cables to overhead lines, according to the OSHA website-- and transformers. Take note of and record any oil leaks you see. Ensure that management and staff are following all locking/tagging procedures regarding all lines and equipment.
Angus Koolbreeze has been a freelance writer since 2007. He has been published in a variety of venues, including "He Reigns Magazine" and online publications. Koolbreeze has a Master of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.