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Power plant signage created to last

Nicola Brittain

Durable signage in power plants will help prevent accident and downtime, this article explores techniques for creating lasting lettering.

Electric utility transmission and distribution identification products such as safety signs, tags, and markers are critical to safe, efficient operation, maintenance, and repair of substations and other sites since they must effectively convey key information regarding location, type of equipment and danger to personnel.

Unfortunately, traditional painted and laminated identification products frequently fade or delaminate when exposed to outdoor weather or punishing conditions leading to costly mistakes or lost time.

The importance of signage

In substations, identification products may warn of arc flash and shock hazard, which the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states can result in ‘serious injury and even death.’ Markers and tags typically specify when Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO) is necessary before the set-up, maintenance, service, or repair of energised equipment. Substation structure numbers are also necessary for rapid ID and servicing.

On large, high-voltage transmission towers crossing and direction signs signal trouble areas. Phase tags are also commonly used to indicate phase polarity on the towers, important because connecting the wrong phases can lead to dangerous explosions, serious injury and downtime. Transmission towers also use aerial observation pole tags for rapid identification and better visibility to aircraft.

Smaller, lower-voltage distribution lines deliver power to homes and businesses on smaller poles. Pole identification products, such as tags and markers, are used to track and identify assets, data, and other vital information. Pole tags can also be used to identify the pole’s owner, maintenance history, and other valuable data.

Lasting safety

So, how can safety signage be designed and constructed to ensure durability? Well, for applications with the longest lasting requirements, impermanent solutions should be avoided in favor of products that use robust substrate or embossed characters.

When lasting transmission and distribution markers are required, a pole badge or pole markers can be constructed with unpainted, embossed aluminum, brass, or stainless steel. Alternatively, black characters can be screen printed on construction-grade yellow or sliver reflective sheeting for use on metal reflective pole tags, making them durable, and UV stabilised.

For confined spaces where close up reading is required, designs can comprise miniature markers with raised, 3D characters, called FastTags  - these will remain legible in low light, oily, or dusty environments. The raised, 3D characters are hot stamped with high quality UV stable foil and are nonconductive and non-corroding.

Avoid replacement

These products will remain valuable tools even as new technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) are employed.

And although pole tags are not mandated by regulations, many utilities use them to assist with recovery efforts after a regional outage by posting serialised GIS or GPS pole marking and numbering that correspond with a pole’s geographic location. During emergencies like hurricanes, mutual aid situations often arise where utility trucks from different regions are called on for assistance. These trucks may not have access to GIS or GPS location information, making pole tags essential for proper identification and location guidance.

Everlast by tech products

Everlast by industrial ID product manufacturer, Tech Products, is an example of durable signage. The product is made of thick, high impact polyolefin plastic with copy and pictograms permanently embedded through the thickness of the substrate.

The polyolefin plastic is impervious to sun, wind, rain, humidity, salt water, and temperature variations as well as fumes and acid or alkaline solutions. The characters can be seen from a distance and are sharply contrasted. The signage can be cut, scratched, even shot through with little or no effect to the embedded characters, according to the company, which helps to ensure readability decades later.

Another effective way of creating permanent signage is to use embossing that creates raised characters in metal materials to improve legibility even when covered in dust, dirt, or paint.

Tech Products performed numerous durability tests on the signs in compliance with UL and ASTM standards. When the signs were subjected to the equivalent of 43 years of UV exposure, salt spray, vibration, abrasion, and temperature variation, the test results showed no change in color or legibility.

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