We may bemoan the many health and safety regulations that affect our daily lives, but the simple fact remains they are there for a very good reason. Not too long ago, it was not unusual for people to be expected to operate heavy and noisy machinery without the correct protection. The resulting range of conditions brought about by this is well-known.
When it comes to electricity, there are many rules and regulations to adhere to, as well as basic and simple precautions that should be taken. Electricity may be taken for granted – after all, it’s there, and we all known how much it is missed when we experience a power-cut – but it can also be a very dangerous thing.
This is why we have Portable Appliance Testing – or PAT – in the workplace, in which every single item with an electrical power source is required to be tested for safety, and paperwork filed to that effect. However, what about when you are in close proximity to higher voltages? What about, for example, those people who have to work within, or operate, substations and switching equipment?
Purpose of Substations
You will have seen substations on your travels. You’ll find them hidden behind locked gates all across the country, and they vary in size and type. The purpose of a substation is to make sure that the electricity that is generated at a power station, then sent down the many thousands of miles of cable that cross the country, reaches our homes and business premises as the correct voltage for use.
There are also private substations, used by major industrial complexes for on-site transformation, and they can also include switching systems. Now, the problem with substations is that, by their very nature, they include equipment that carries very high voltages. This is inherently dangerous if the persons involved are not familiar with it, or are unauthorised to be inside the substation. You can turn to Substation Safety for advice.
What do you do to prevent this happening? There are a number of precautions you can take, one of which is known as LOTO.
What is LOTO?
LOTO is lockout-tagout; it is a procedure used across industry to ensure that dangerous equipment such as heavy plant, complex machinery, substations and more can only be accessed or operated by personnel who are correctly authorised. It is a highly recommended procedure when dealing with substations.
For example, you may need someone to enter a substation to repair a fault, or to fit new parts. It might be due for routine maintenance, or require switching to a different setting. There may be problems that need diagnosing, and somebody needs to be there to have a look.
In all of these instances, thanks to the high voltage and inherent danger, the only people you want inside the substation are those who are authorised. Likewise, even when nobody is needed inside the substation, you need to make sure you have adequate protection against entry by persons who should not be there.
LOTO can help with this. The routine with LOTO involves, and this is a simplified explanation, a designated person physically locking the substation – or in the case of heavy equipment or machinery, shutting it down correctly – and tagging the lock with their details and any other required information. Once this is done, only that person named on the tag can then open the substation – or restart the machinery – and in no circumstances can this be over-ruled.
This means that unauthorised access or operation is not possible. It pays to have some of your experienced and qualified personnel trained in the LOTO procedure, so you can be sure of the highest levels of safety at all times.