In 2021, the use of renewable energy has been projected to grow exponentially. Today, the most common renewable energy resources are wind power, solar power and hydropower (energy that is generated by moving water). With renewable energy methods becoming increasingly more popular and encouraged, thousands of workers are being hired to install and maintain these power generators. As with any role that works directly or indirectly with electricity, installing and maintaining wind turbines poses many safety risks.
Amerisafe Group’s safety professionals are experienced in promoting a safety culture in the wind industry. Because we are a nationwide safety company, Amerisafe is prepared to help implement wind turbine safety programs on sites such as offshore wind turbines, wind farms and the like throughout the entire U.S. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, 2021, Amerisafe is outlining some risks that come from working in the wind turbine industry. Wind turbine safety and knowledge are crucial in allowing workers to work safely and efficiently.
For many years, OSHA’s number 1 most frequently cited standard is Fall Protection. Wind turbines can be as tall as 50 meters (150 feet), making falling one of the biggest hazards when it comes to wind turbine safety! Installing or maintaining wind turbines will directly expose workers to fall hazards. Fall protection training and personal fall arrest equipment (PFAS) will be necessary for proper employee competency for working with wind turbines.
An additional hazard that many do not consider or associate with wind turbine safety is confined space. Most wind turbines have many areas that may cause a worker to enter a confined space. These areas include the blades, hub and vertical tower. Workers may be required to enter these confined spaces during installation or maintenance - and to provide servicing and maintenance inside the blades. Occasionally, a permit may be required to enter these confined spaces, which may also require a confined space rescue team on site.
When promoting wind turbine safety and the many hazards associated, our Safety Consultants consider electrocution and arc flash risks. Wind turbines produce many megawatts of electricity and energy. Electrocution and arc flash are major hazards when working with wind turbines. In order to ensure safety, a procedure called lock out/tag out (LOTO) should be used to be certain that power generation is paused while maintenance is occurring. Lock out/ tag out will also help other workers to know that it is an active job site and to avoid power generation, therefore keeping the maintenance worker safe from electrocution.
Since renewable energy usage has become a more widely accepted form of electricity, OSHA has warned that fires have been a major “green jobs hazard.” When working on a site near wind turbines, workers should be especially cautious of fire hazards, which may come as a result of lightning, friction or other causes. In order to prepare and inform workers about the fire hazards associated with wind turbine safety, a fire extinguisher or fire watch training may be necessary.
Additionally, the tips of wind turbines may spin up to 180 miles per hour. Dependent upon wind conditions, the blades may turn at rates between 10 and 20 revolutions per minute. When servicing and providing maintenance in the nacelle, it is important to consider the moving parts. These constantly moving parts post a major hazard for workers. An unknowing or inexperienced worker has the potential to get severely injured.