The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) enforces safe working conditions for general industry and construction, while the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides performance standards for fall protection in the United States. However, there are no accrediting or certifying agencies for the U.S. wind energy industry.
“There are not many regulations specific to wind energy or wind generation,” said John Eckel, Sr. Technical Training Specialist at Miller Fall Protection. “Coverage is only from existing general industry and construction regulations so, for example, regulation CFR1926 applies when building towers and CFR1910 for maintaining them. Wind construction has many safety hazards and that’s why industry-specific training is so important.”
According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of fatalities at construction sites, accounting for about one-third of all fatalities in the industry. Workers at heights of six feet or greater must have safeguards in place to protect them from the risk of falling.
“The most effective way to ensure safety is proper training. A combination of theory and application exercises—so hands-on application and safe demonstration of the theory that’s learned—is ideal,” said Eckel. “At the same time, trainers must offer a full array of options. Good training is about meeting the specific needs of workers based on the type of work they’ll perform.”
He added that a properly trained worker will understand the basics of the job, such as how to climb the tower properly and work safely in the nacelle, but he or she will also learn to seek the requirements at each jobsite. “For example, a technician should know if the company allows workers to disconnect a safety connector once they’ve safely climbed into the nacelle and the hatch is closed, or if it’s imperative to stay connected at all times.”
Wind technicians should also keep apprised of what’s available in fall-protection equipment, including how to inspect, use the hardware and don the harness correctly. “Often the biggest mistake made is the size of the harness, which doesn’t match the student’s torso. But workers must also understand how to use the different anchors and connecting devices, and know where they’re located on a turbine at each different job site,” said Eckel.”
“Equipment has changed drastically over the years,” said Kevin Denis, Special Projects Manager at Gravitec Systems, a fall-protection service company. “So it’s important to first train with new gear. Too often purchasers focus on equipment prices and availability. But turbine compatibility, standard compliance, and skill level of the technician are far more essential for safe use of fall-protection equipment.”
He added that rescue is crucial and should be a guaranteed component of training. “For example, to evacuate or rescue a co-worker from a turbine, rescue equipment has become far less complicated with simple methods that technicians can learn in a couple hours.”
It’s worth noting that ANSI requires workers to return every two years for refresher training. The organization has also established regulations for Competent Person Trainer under ANSI Z359.2.
“Look for a training facility that is conducive to learning and that prioritizes safety,” said Denis. “Students train at-height so engineered anchorages, secondary belay lines, drop-mats, and properly maintained structures are critical and a must at a training facility.”
“We even ask trainees to bring in their own equipment to ensure it’s inspected for use and so they can practice with what they’ll actually use in the field,” added Eckel. Bottom line: “Make sure the trainer isn’t just familiar with safety training, but that they train specifically for safety in the wind industry.”
Miller Fall Protection
Filed Under: Safety, Training