Unique Risks in the Wind Industry: Safeguarding Against Falls

Loren Henry


September 15, 2019

By Loren Henry, Broker
Worldwide Facilities – San Diego, CA

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four out of five fatal injuries that occur in the renewable energy industry are caused by falls. As interest in the renewable energy market continues to grow, workplace safety will become a big part of the conversation.

While fall-protection safety should be at the forefront of every renewable energy operation, it is particularly critical in the wind industry. Today, it’s essential for companies to be aware of fall protection risks as well as proactive ways to prevent accidents and injuries.

Unique Safety Challenges

Among the safety challenges faced by the wind energy industry are the remote working sites, turbine height, limited access, and turbine manufacturer variables. It is because of these unique challenges that the American National Standards Institute and American Society of Safety Engineers Standards Committee created an approved set of safety standards for wind turbine construction and demolition in 2018 — the first U.S. industry consensus standard written specifically for the construction and demolition of wind turbines. The A10.21 standard is aimed at establishing minimum safety requirements and recommended best practices for wind turbine construction and demolition. As the renewable energy industry grows, we’ll begin to see further developments in fall-protection safeguards.

Three Main Risk Areas

There are three primary scenarios in which workers in the wind industry are at risk for a fall.

1. Assembly/Installation

The assembly of wind turbines is very physical and dangerous work. Technicians are climbing ladders and lifting heavy materials, and are suspended in the air for hours at a time in various weather conditions. To help prevent falls, businesses are using fall-arrest equipment that not only has multiple anchor points, but can also withstand harsh weather conditions and includes tool-carrying features.

2. Maintenance/Repair

Maintenance procedures such as blade cleaning, replacing worn components and repairing electrical control units are typically required over the life of the structure (once the tower is up and running). Similar fall-protection systems used in the assembly process are also used in maintenance, but can include specialized access equipment and rope securing techniques, as well as more permanent safeguards such as horizontal rail systems that offer additional fall-protection for operations that require more frequent maintenance.

3. Rescue

Wind turbines are often located in remote and isolated locations, making the rescue process extremely difficult and risky. The longer a worker who has fallen is trapped or suspended, the more serious the situation can become. In most instances, the difference between a noninjury fall and one resulting in serious harm or death can be directly related to how quickly a worker is rescued. Rescue speed is dependent on how well the team is trained and on having the correct equipment available.

When it comes to renewable energy, Worldwide Facilities has the experience and market reach to help you and your clients with the right insurance protection and industry-specific risk management resources. For more information, contact Loren Henry at 619-541-4265 or lhenry@wwfi.com.

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