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Home / Technical Articles / 6 Simple Rules to Ensure Substation Safety

Importance of safety protection

Another extremely important substation engineering aspect is associated with safety protection. It is fair to say that safety is always a No. 1 priority in substation design, operation and maintenance.

6 Simple Rules to Ensure Substation Safety
6 Simple Rules to Ensure Substation Safety

Unlike the case where a higher reliability required a larger investment, we can’t put a price tag on safety since there is no such thing like working conditions being more or less safe. It should always be 100% safe to work at or visit the substation.

There are numerous laws, rules, codes, etc. governing safety requirements; of the most important being IEEE Standard C2-2012. 2012 National Electrical Safety Code®” (NESC®)

The main mission of all these regulations is safeguarding of personnel from hazards arising from the installation, maintenance or operation of substation equipment.

Safety standards contain requirements for:

  • Enclosure of electrical equipment
  • Rooms and spaces
  • Illumination
  • Floors, floor openings, passageways, stairs
  • Exits
  • Installation of equipment:
  • Specific rules for installation of all typical substation equipment

All these measures are based on common sense and the goal to provide a safe environment for substation personnel.

6 rules to provide substation safety

Rule no. 1 (clearance)

Enough clearance from energized parts should be provided to avoid accidental contact with them. If that can’t be met, live parts should be guarded or enclosed.

Rule no. 2 (minimum height)

A minimum height from the ground to any ungrounded part of an electrical installation should be 8’-6”, so a person staying on the ground can’t touch a substation element or its part which may become energized accidentally. For example, the bottom of a post insulator supporting an energized bus does not normally have any potential.

However, if bus flashover to the ground over insulator occurs, touching the bottom of the insulator may become unsafe. That’s why an 8’-6” distance from the bottom of insulator to the ground should be provided.

Rule no. 3 (illumination…)

There should be sufficient illumination for personnel to clearly see their surroundings and perform any work safely. Required illumination levels are specified in NESC® [1].

Rule no. 4 (passageways…)

All passageways and stairs should be wide enough for personnel to navigate them safely, adequate railing should be provided, and floor openings should have guard rails.

Rule no. 5 (evacuation routes)

Exits should be clearly marked and evacuation routes should be free from obstructions. Depending on the function of the building (for example, control house), it may require several exits to avoid personnel being trapped during equipment fault, fire, etc.

Rule no. 6 (grounding, as always)

All substation metallic structures, fences, and equipment tanks should be connected to a station ground grid which should be designed to ensure that step and touch potential values are lower than the ones stipulated in the applicable standards.

Reference: Fundamentals of Modern Electrical Substations; Part 3: Electrical Substation Engineering Aspects by Boris Shvartsberg, Ph.D., P.E., P.M.P.

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More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Charlotte Fleet
    Dec 02, 2021

    Edvard, you made a lot of great points on how to ensure safety during substation construction and other projects. It makes a lot of sense to have a sufficient amount of illumination so that surroundings are clear to see. I think that it would be very smart to hire oversight and consulting services to promote further safety at your substation.

  2. jayesh.k.parikh
    Oct 24, 2019

    how much distance required for 11 kv and 430 V from panel area.Any literature on it.

  3. Deep S.
    Dec 21, 2018

    I noticed one person sitting and working inside the substation.
    Is it safe? If not what are the guidelines/recommendations and hazards governing the same.

  4. Eligio
    Sep 12, 2018

    Proper Practice and Use of Electrical Technical Terminology [Jargon]:

    1.) Substation not Sub Station or Sub-Station
    2.) Switchyard not Switch Yard or Switch-Yard
    3.) Luminaire not Luminaries
    4.) Panelboard not Panel Board
    5.) Switchboard not Switch Board
    6.) Switchgear not Switch Gear
    7.) Lightning Protection not Lighting Protection
    8.) Busway not Bus Way
    9.) Busduct not Bus Duct or Bus Duck
    10.) Raceway not Race Way
    11.) Underground not Under Ground
    12.) Underfloor not Under Floor
    13.) Wireless not Wire Less
    12.) Shutdown not Shut Down
    14.) etc…

  5. Mike Murray
    Dec 15, 2017

    What level of competency is required for a person to enter a sub station to reset the power switch

  6. Aleksandar Jankovic
    Jul 16, 2017

    Its great that you are publishing
    Some of that is like refreshing our knowledge

  7. Francoise
    Feb 12, 2016

    is there international standards define the safety distance between the electrical substation and residential areas?

  8. Mohamed M
    Aug 05, 2015

    if there any recommendation to not use a wooden desk or chair inside the the medium voltage substation ??

  9. a k jawahire
    Apr 11, 2015

    You are providing knowledge with minimum. Words

  10. LI Xinglong
    Apr 10, 2015

    emergency push button to switch off pwer is also important

  11. O'Connell
    Apr 04, 2015

    who do I get in touch with concerning an electricity sub station that is causing us difficulty in using our right of way as the neighbour parks his cars in front of its gates,I did mention that I thought that the front of the sub station had to be kept clear, the owner of the rented property tells me that he was given permission by the people who were at the sub station at the time, this was a couple of years ago and getting to our right of way is worst as there are often two or three cars in front of the sub station. please help.

  12. Nombuso
    Sep 07, 2014

    A very useful page. Thanks

  13. Chris Dodds
    May 28, 2014

    IEC61482-1 covers the Box-Test standard for testing arc flash clothing materials when carrying out maintenance work on power substations – please see

  14. Pawan
    May 25, 2014

    Most importantly Arc Flash Calculations shall be done and safe distances shall be marked. NFPA 70 E makes it very clear and IEEE Std 1584-2002 (Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations). In India Client does not worry much of Arc Flash Studies.

  15. tirthankar deb
    Feb 02, 2014

    Very useful information…thanks

  16. Sudipto Choudhury
    Jan 31, 2014

    Great Site for updating self knowledge

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