by Jim Wolfe, Electric Services Coordinator
Your utility substation may seem like the gentle giant that sits outside of your plant or on the outside of town. It does its job day after day without much attention. Facilities that fall into this category can be non-compliant for a long time before anyone ever notices or worse, there is an incident.
Substation signage may not be at the top of your utilities list, but it is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting yourself and the public. Signage is also a NESC code requirement at your substations. Even though there is an 8 foot fence around your installation, you have to warn everyone about the dangers inside. Section 11 of the NESC covers the requirements for electric supply stations or as many refer to them as Subs.
The NESC states that, “A safety sign shall be displayed at each entrance. For fenced electric supply stations, a safety sign shall be displayed on each side of the fenced enclosure.” That is a pretty general statement, but luckily we are given some guidance as to what type of signage we should use. ANSI standard’s help you in finding the recommended signage for these sights. Yes, I did say recommended. Neither the NESC or ANSI‘s Z535 document is specific as to what words or pictures are required, but they do require accepted best practices to be used. Your signage needs to communicate the hazard and reduce liability.
One sign per side of your substation may not be enough protection. The NESC recommends that signs are 30-45 ft. apart to maximize visibility from all angles. Multiple signs are needed for most sights to meet this practice. Spacing is not the only important item to worry about. Printed words on the sign have to be of the proper size and readable from a maximum distance of 15 ft. away. Danger used to be the focus word on all fence signage, but that has changed. ANSI recommends placement of warning signage on the outside and the use danger signs inside of the fence on any equipment. Danger signs are not required by NESC, but are recommended and can be required by federal and state regulatory agencies and your insurance company.
Global harmonization has driven the use of pictograms on signs to help convey messages. The diverse culture in our society increases the need to use pictures to alert the public of danger. Make sure that your current signs are legible even if they aren’t equivalent to the ANSI Z535-2011 standard. Update any outdated contact information for your utility found on any of your signs and stickers in case there is emergency or unauthorized person are at the site. Use these recommended practices to keep your customers safe and protect your utility.
Special thanks to UTICOM and Guggenmoss & Associates for our substation signs.