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April 26, 2019

Renewable energy demand is growing, with new wind turbines being installed worldwide. Employees scale the heights of turbines to perform scheduled maintenance. However, many safety concerns exist at every wind site and should be evaluated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that the hazards of wind energy are not unique, but must be approached with caution to eliminate incidents. OSHA lists wind farm hazards as arc flashes, electric shock, falls, and thermal burn hazards. However, the main hazards of working on a wind site include electrical hazards, mechanical hazards, crush injuries, hydraulic hazards, and fire hazards. While the installation, maintenance, and repairs of wind turbines are necessary, every wind site manager should be aware of these five safety concerns to safeguard against injury.

1. HAZARDOUS WEATHER

Wind farm sites are often affected by hazardous weather such as lightning and thunderstorms. The best way to safeguard wind technicians against hazardous weather is to enroll in weather service notifications and use those notifications to plan good working conditions and avoid extreme weather. The best apps for correctly predicting weather include WeatherBug, Weather Underground, Accuweather, NOAA, and The Weather Channel.

Wind turbine techs have noted that high-speed winds can cause safety stand downs and extended weather delays. Additionally,  thunderstorms can result in turbine damage and human electrocution. Besides lightning, extreme cold, extreme heat, storms, wind, flooding, and more extreme weather events can often lead to damage and turbine downtime.

2. HEIGHTS

Heights are a given hazard when managing a wind site; most wind turbines reach heights of over 300 feet tall. Wind site managers must be sure that each technician has the physical ability to climb and should train  each technician to use their PPE (personal protective equipment). Safety harnesses and other equipment should be routinely inspected and maintained to ensure employee safety. Improper training, equipment misuse, fatigue or distractions can lead to falls or injury. Each wind technician should perform a daily inspection of all PPE, stay hydrated, alert and complete a buddy check before entering and climbing a wind turbine.

3. ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Unlike most of the hazards in a wind turbine, electricity is an invisible danger. However, electricity is present throughout a turbine and the hazard of a shock or arc flash and arc blast are often overlooked. Because a large percentage of maintenance on a turbine is mechanical, it is easy for a tech to forget about the hazards of electricity. Yet the close and confined nature of working in a turbine, especially in the Nacelle or Hub, means that a technician is almost always working in close proximity to electricity. Over time, it is very common for a technician to move from comfortable to complacent in working around electricity. One way to keep the hazards of electricity top of mind is to ensure the job briefing not only includes the hazard of electricity but highlights a specific hazard. For example, the yaw motors receive 480 volts 3-phase power. This amount of voltage and current could cause an arc flash and arc blast if a tool were to cause a short.

4. MACHINE GUARDING

Wind turbines have many moving parts that need to be secured or guarded before being worked on. All rotating aspects of a wind turbine must be guarded to protect from bodily harm. Protocols within the wind turbine should be followed, and all moving parts should have a barrier to provide maximum protection for employees. An example of machine guarding is Lock Out/Tag Out Procedures (LOTO). LOTO is used to safeguard employees. This process is vital to protecting your employees by isolating equipment and locking controlled energy.

5. PROPER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

As a manager, it is necessary to make sure each employee is using up-to-date industry safety gear including a hard hat, safety glasses, two-meter adjustable positioning lanyard, a head torch, two-meter fall arrest lanyard, vertical fall arrester, fire retardant clothing, and safety footwear. Up-to-date PPE can save the lives of your employees when working on a wind turbine.

CONCLUSION

Safety and training need to be a continued focus as wind farms grow at an incredible rate. Training as well as instilling a culture of safety in workers is vital to create awareness and reduce accidents. As a wind site manager, you need to develop a plan for safety from these five common safety concerns which should include adequate training, good communication, proper tools, and PPE.

World Wind & Solar specializes in wind operations and maintenance services at all levels. With over 300 techs across the US and over 10 years of experience, there are few challenges we have yet to overcome. If you need qualified technicians to perform scheduled, un-scheduled, large or small corrective services, give us a call today 661-822-4877.

If you would like to learn more about WWS’s wind services, visit our Wind Farm O&M page.

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