Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, Oswalt & Smith

The hazards of working on wind turbines

Not too long ago, wind energy generation and wind farms were rare. Now, Pennsylvania has many such facilities. If you were one of the workers who have to do electrical repairs or maintenance at dangerous heights on wind towers, you would naturally make sure you have the appropriate personal protective equipment and know exactly how to use it.

You might be part of a relatively new industry, but the risks you face are not new. Not only will you risk slip-and-fall accidents or being struck off your work platform by a piece of equipment, but your job will expose you to strong winds. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have safety standards specifically for wind turbine workers, compliance with general safety regulations is crucial.

Turbine installation

Many hazards exist from the onset. During the installation of the wind turbine, your employer must enforce the following safety standards:

  • Guardrails, safety nets or a fall arrest system must protect you from fall-related injuries.
  • Safety training must equip you with the knowledge to understand and operate fall protection equipment.
  • Your employer must ensure that neither you nor your co-workers become complacent. Too many workers die as a result of complacency.
  • Note that wearing a fall arrest harness is compulsory and not optional.

Remember, that a co-worker's mishap can take you down as well, and it is always a good idea to watch each other's backs.

OSHA rules about working at heights

Maintenance of wind turbines forms a part of OSHA's general standards, whereby any elevations from four feet and more must have guardrails. However, that is not always possible on wind turbines, in which cases your employer must provide fall arrest equipment or safety nets.

Many wind turbines provide fixed ladder access, but strict regulations come into play for ladders that exceed 24 feet in height. At that height, regulations involving landing and rest platforms become effective.

Dropped object hazards

Even something as small as a nut or bolt can be a deadly projectile if dropped from a high work platform of a wind turbine. Falling tools cause numerous fatal workplace accidents each year. While toe boards are useful measures to prevent falling tools on construction sites, they are not suitable options for wind turbines. Tethered tools might be the only practical solution to avoid injuries to lower-level workers on wind farms.

You can tether most of the tools of your trade to yourself, but you should attach anything heavier than five pounds to the structure itself. This will prevent a heavy object from pulling you over the edge of your work platform.

Never say never

Even if you have worked for years on wind turbines without adverse incidents, you should never lose sight of the fact that accidents can happen, even if you follow the best working at heights practices. If you do fall victim to such an accident, the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance program will likely have your back. An experienced attorney can assist with the navigation of the claims process to make sure you receive the maximum benefits under applicable state laws.

 

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Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, Oswalt & Smith

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Altoona, PA 16602

Phone: 814-201-6845
Fax: 814-946-9105
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