Consider this situation: A worker falls from a wind turbine you are installing and is left dangling 100 ft above the ground. What do you do? If you can’t answer the rescue question immediately, it’s time to take a step back and develop a comprehensive rescue plan.
Lives are on the line every day in the wind-energy industry. With some of the tallest towers reaching over 300 ft, it is essential to be fully prepared in case of a fall. One of the most important fall considerations is rescue.
Too often, the rescue plan is overlooked in a fall-protection program. This should never be the case. Since wind turbines are frequently located in isolated locations, more time is required for rescue crews to reach an accident scene. Prompt rescue, typically defined as within four to six minutes and no longer than 15 minutes following the fall, is a necessity because of the potential for injuries. The difference between a non-injury fall and one resulting in serious harm often has to do with how quickly a worker is rescued. The longer the fallen worker spends suspended or trapped, the worse the injuries he or she may sustain.
A rescue plan should be developed prior to any tower work and should outline the potential hazards during wind turbine construction and maintenance. Make sure the turbine and nacelle are properly equipped with rescue and casualty evacuation equipment, or descent systems for emergencies.
The rescue plan should be specific to the jobsite and consider all possible fall situations. For example, could a worker fall near the top of the turbine where rescue from the ground makes conventional rescue tactics nearly impossible? What if the worker falls inside the tower? What if the turbine is offshore where rescue presents a unique and risky challenge, or in a rural area with remote access to emergency crews? Understanding challenges helps create an appropriate plan to mitigate potential hazards during the rescue.
Train by example
In addition to having a thorough rescue plan, all workers must be properly trained on how to execute it. The ideal training program consists of classroom time along with hands-on instruction. The key is to provide lessons that approximate work conditions and specific applications so workers can more easily apply what they’ve learned to real situations.
Major topics that should be covered in training include: identifying hazards, understanding fall protection equipment and its proper uses, knowing which rescue systems are used for which scenarios, and in-depth knowledge of rescue procedures. If you need help addressing these situations, contact a fall-protection equipment manufacturer. Many safety-equipment manufacturers, including Capital Safety, will work with you to develop a plan that is specific to the jobsite and appropriate for workers’ needs. They can also help train employees either on-site or off-site, and provide valuable tips and best practices.
At the end of a training session, all workers should be able to adequately answer the following questions:
• How will a worker who falls be brought to safety?
• Who will perform the rescue?
• What equipment will be used to perform the rescue?
• Where is that equipment located?
• What is the procedure for writing and filing an incident report?
• Who ensures the equipment involved in the fall is taken out of service?
The bottom line
When it comes to fall protection and rescue procedures, there is no margin for error. Installing and maintaining wind turbines calls for well thought out safety procedures and should be a top priority for a business and its workers. Plan ahead and make sure that all turbine workers are well prepared in the event of a fall. WPE
By: Oliver Hirschfelder, Global Wind Energy Director, Capital Safety, www.capitalsafety.com
Filed Under: Safety