Oliver Hirschfelder, Capital Safety, www.capitalsafety.com
Turbine construction and maintenance are physically demanding and dangerous activities, which is why worker safety cannot be compromised. This makes it critical to address these unique challenges to safeguard the health and well being of your crew. Start by promoting these four safe practices on your job site:
1. Be aware: Understand OSHA and ANSI standards. Because working at height is a fundamental part of turbine construction and maintenance, fall protection is one of the most critical safety considerations. Wind-turbine towers reach several hundred feet, exposing crews to the dangers of working at extreme heights.
Familiarize yourself with OSHA regulations and ANSI standards. Workers elevated at a height of six feet or more, a common occurrence in the wind industry, are required to use fall-protection equipment. Your goal should be to ensure that your team is acutely aware of potential fall hazards and prevention methods.
2. Be protected: Use industry-specific equipment.
During wind-turbine construction and maintenance, workers are often on the job at height for prolonged periods. Remember that serious injury from falls is possible, but that such injuries are preventable with the proper safety equipment.
Provide your workers with dependable, durable fall-protection equipment suited for the high-risk tasks specific to the industry. Invest in products such as powered climb-assist equipment, which helps workers climb the internal ladders of wind turbines. Their benefits include reducing worker fatigue by providing support and weight relief while ascending and descending a turbine ladder.
O&M team leaders are also responsible for equipping workers with the training and knowledge needed to use the products correctly. To guarantee compliance, workers should have access to user-friendly and comfortable equipment that works with them, not against them, throughout the duration of the workday. Don’t forget to communicate the importance of fall-protection equipment in saving lives.
3. Be prepared: Develop a rescue plan. An accident on a wind turbine poses an unusual challenge. A worker could fall on top of the nacelle or inside the tower, or the turbine could be located offshore or in a rural area with limited access to emergency services.
Practice prevention from the beginning and develop a comprehensive rescue plan prior to any tower work so workers know exactly what to do in an emergency. It’s crucial to customize the content of a plan so that it suits a unique working environment and addresses all potential fall scenarios. For example, create a section to outline the common hazards that could occur during turbine maintenance, such as a fire, electrocution, or risks from wildlife and insects.
Keep rescue evacuation equipment or descent systems the nacelle in the event of a fall. Remember, it’s better to be proactive, rather than reactive
4. Be safe: Analyze the work zone. Turbine climbers should abide by all the general guidelines for safe work practices including using a properly installed fall-arrest system, securing loose tools and parts, avoiding climbing within the six-foot fall distance of a climber above, and resting regularly while climbing.
As the world relies more on alternative energy, the wind-power industry is focused on the future—especially the future of its workforce. Take a step toward a safer future by promoting these few best practices and others to ensure wind-turbine workers remain safe in a challenging environment. WPE