The wind energy industry has experienced significant growth across the past decade with employment in wind turbine engineering set to continue to grow even further over the coming years. As the number of turbines multiplies and as they also grow larger in size, the wind energy safety hazards faced by workers assembling, servicing or performing maintenance work on wind turbines is increasing. Wind turbine safety has become a key issue for a number of providers globally.
Ensure Maximum Safety
Falls, confined spaces, fire hazards, medical and first aid, lock/out electrical hazards, machine guarding, respiratory protection and arc flash are just some of the many hazards that face wind turbine workers. To meet OSHA legislation and to ensure the maximum safety of wind turbine workers, employers need to endeavour to exercise a number of key wind turbine safety precautions and controls. Here is some examples:
First Aid Personnel Should Always Be On Site
At least one person who is qualified to administer first aid should be on site whenever work is being carried out on wind turbines. On construction sites, at least two people trained and qualified to administer first aid must be on site at all times if the installation, maintenance or servicing of wind turbines is being conducted. It is also imperative that all workers actually performing any maintenance work (wind turbine maintenance generally requires at least two wind turbine technicians) must be trained in first aid. [See also wind turbine rescue training]
Ongoing Risk Management & Assessments
Effective risk management is essential to ensuring wind turbine safety. Contractors and site managers should ensure that all wind turbine workers are correctly informed, educated and knowledgeable regarding the risks and hazards that can occur during the course of their duties, especially in relation to electrical hazards or the risks of working with certain tools and materials.
Contractors and site managers should also endeavour to conduct ongoing task specific risk assessments to uncover any hazards specific to their windfarm and implement appropriate control measures. Supervison as always is key in monitoring the operations and identifying areas for improvement and compliance.
Provision of Personal Protective Equipment
The provision of comprehensive personal protective equipment (PPE) is another important element, [albeit as a last resort tool], of maintaining wind turbine health and safety on site. Any wind turbine workers exposed to a potential fall should be supported by a certified personal fall arrest system (PFAS) such as a full body safety harness. PPE in the form of safety glasses, climbing helmets, head torches, arrest lanyards, positioning lanyards, overalls, safety vest and safety footwear should also be provided to wind turbine workers.
Tool and Equipment Testing
A qualified expert should be contracted to test all PPE, rescue equipment and safety equipment including ladders, fall arrest protection systems, elevators, electric hoists, pulleys and cranes. All of the electrical tools used in the maintenance or servicing of wind turbines should also be inspected by a certified expert.
Active Weather Monitoring
Severe weather conditions pose one of the most alarming threats to the safety of wind energy workers, especially as wind turbines are vulnerable to lightning strikes. Where technicians perform work on wind turbines during strong winds, ice or snow, storms or bouts of lightning, the propensity for falls, fires, electrocution, and other potential accidents and injuries to occur significantly heightens.
Site managers should take care to monitor weather forecasts and track storm, wind, freezing and lightning reports. A proactive safety precaution to take is to subscribe to mobile alerts regarding specific parameters set by the forecaster to reflect how weather conditions may affect the location of the wind turbine on your site in the near future.
Wind turbine engineering is a highly specialist field with a number of unique health and safety hazards. However by exercising these 5 key safety precautions, contractors, site managers and wind farm owners can ensure to make a conscious effort to protect the safety of wind turbines technicians and workers and stay OSHA compliant.