Safety in the Renewable Energy Industry: The Top 3 Workplace Hazards of Wind Farms

Safety in the Renewable Energy Industry: The Top 3 Workplace Hazards of Wind Farms
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BY:
Loren Henry

Broker

November 17, 2020

According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 120,000 workers across the U.S. have wind-powered careers. With no evidence of a slowdown, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will continue to be new opportunities in this growing sector. With wind turbine technicians being one of the nation’s two fastest-growing jobs, along with solar installers, wind-powered careers are quickly growing in popularity.

But as the demand for wind energy accelerates, wind farm safety can easily be overlooked. Whether your Renewable Energy clients have workers who are constructing new turbines, refurbishing existing units or performing regular work around windmills, it’s critical that wind farm safety remains at the forefront. The following are the top three wind farm-related safety hazards.

1. Falls from Lifts and Cranes

During the construction or maintenance of a wind farm, workers are routinely hoisted 100 feet or more into the air on lifts and cranes. Since 2012, the height of wind turbines installed in the U.S. has substantially increased, with the average height of a turbine being upward of 280 feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Adding in the fact that wind farms are exposed to high winds and inclement weather conditions simply exacerbates the danger of working at these heights. Fall prevention and protection must be a top priority to safeguard workers on wind farms.

2. Electrocution Risks

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers in wind farms are exposed to a variety of serious electrical risks that could cause critical injuries and even death. These hazards include arc flashes, shock, falls and thermal burns. This comes as no big surprise given the fact that wind turbines produce massive amounts of electricity that workers are directly exposed to. Not to mention, these employees are usually working in close proximity to overhead power lines.

3. Working in Confined Spaces

Working on wind turbines typically requires going inside the unit. Not only can these low oxygen environments cause intense claustrophobic events that can result in serious injuries, but also can expose workers to hazardous gases and toxic vapors.

OSHA defines a confined workspace as a space that: 

  • Is large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work.
  • Is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee. and
  • Has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.

Conclusion
Workers on wind farms are exposed to a number of serious injury-related risks, including fatalities. As an insurance professional, it’s critical to work with your clients to proactively identify these and other potential hazards and, if possible, apply preventive measures to help mitigate risks. For up-to-date information and resources regarding worker safety in the wind industry, visit the website hosted by the American Wind Energy Association.

At Worldwide Facilities, we’re helping Renewable Energy businesses nationwide meet the specialized insurance challenges of the rapidly growing Renewable Energy sector. To learn about our unique insurance solutions for this growing industry, contact Loren Henry at lhenry@wwfi.com or 619-541-4265.

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