The alternative energy market is booming, with wind and solar farms springing up across the country and construction projections expected to continue to surge for the foreseeable future as the methods become for affordable and therefore feasible.
The industry is not without its risks, given the aerial nature of the job. OSHA indicates there have been many catastrophic injuries, particularly related to wind energy construction. From falls to severe burns, to electrical shocks and crushing injuries, these are injuries than can be avoided by following best safety practices. Some safety guidelines are as follows:
Fall protection is a critical safeguard for wind energy workers. Per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction industry Subpart M (§1926.500), wind farm construction workers must be protected from the risk of falling when they work at heights of six feet or greater. Meanwhile, general industry standards require workers to be protected from falls when they are at heights of four feet or more. Working above these elevations is common in the wind industry, and following the following guidelines will help workers avoid injury.
- Required PPE for workers exposed to a fall at or greater than six feet shall include an approved personal fall arrest system (PFAS) (commonly used systems in wind are the safety climb up the fixed ladder, twin-tail lanyard, and even Self-Retracting Lifelines [SRLs]).
- All fall arrest equipment shall be designed and intended for industrial climbing.
- Harnesses shall be full-body type and shall fit the employee properly.
- Ladder climbing devices shall be designed for the cable or ladder climbing safety system installed on the structure; this is most often a 3/8” safety climb cable.
- For work that would exposes an employee to a free fall distance greater than six feet (e.g., working on top of the roof of a nacelle) a 12-foot free fall personal energy-absorbing lanyard (“12 ft. FF”) must be used, as referenced by ANSI Z359.13.
- For all other turbine and met tower climbing, fall arrest lanyards shall be, at a minimum, 6-foot free fall (“6 ft. FF”) twin-tail lanyards.
- Employees may select positioning lanyards at their discretion, although the positioning lanyard must be designed for industrial climbing purposes.
- Fall-arrest lanyards must not be used other than for fall-arrest protection purposes.
- Harnesses used for tower climbing shall have, at a minimum, both back and chest D-rings. Shock absorbing lanyards used for tower climbing shall be double-legged to facilitate 100% tie off.
- Like any other system, a PFAS is only as good as its weakest link, so the choice of anchorage is critical. The anchorage is the secure point of attachment for the lanyards. Due to the significant forces generated during a fall, the anchorage must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.
Safe Work Habits for Climbing
- Maintain 100 percent tie-off at all times when exposed to a fall distance of or greater than six feet, utilizing a properly installed fall arrest device (i.e., safety climb system, twin-tailed fall arrest lanyards, and self-retracting lifeline).
- A climber’s hands, gloves, and shoes must be free of mud, grease, or other slippery foreign substances prior to climbing.
- All tools and parts must be secured to an employee’s body with a lanyard, stored in a closeable pocket, or carried in a closeable bag or bucket.
- Never position or climb within the fall distance of a climber above. This fall distance will vary depending on the fall arrest equipment being used and must be continuously evaluated by both climbers.
- Rest regularly while climbing.
- Do not use safety climb system as a resting device; rest at turbine platforms or utilize a positioning lanyard while resting.
- Whenever possible, ground personnel should remain clear of the tower during all climbing activities. If ground personnel must work near the base of a tower while climbing occurs, they must remain continuously aware of hazards overhead.
- A trained employee is the final component of a PFAS.
- No employee should be permitted or required to use a PFAS unless they have been thoroughly trained in the nature of the fall hazards, use, inspection, maintenance, and limitations of the fall protection system.
Following these guidelines will help you maintain 100% risk-free workplaces in the wind energy industry. If you’re looking for A+ employees with years of experience in the field demonstrating these habits, talk to us about our alternative energy staffing solutions.