Did you know that in 2021, there were more than 120,000 jobs in the wind industry in all 50 states? Also, the number of wind turbine technicians will grow by 44% over the next ten years. This places it as the country’s second-highest job, with the fastest growth rate.
Wind farm workers put their lives in jeopardy on a daily basis. As a wind service technician, you must keep massive wind farm turbines operating like clockwork. This is challenging work, and putting safety first is critical while scaling these remarkable heights.
Wind farm employees put their lives in jeopardy on a daily basis. This also applies to offshore contractors working at sea to create a sustainable world. But, unfortunately, getting an injury on-site does happen.
As an employee of a wind farm, you can get compensation if you’re hurt due to a safety equipment malfunction. In this article, you’ll find all the information you require.
Wind Farm Climbing Dangers
Wind farm towers are increasing in height, with the tallest wind turbine tower in the United States being 653.5 feet.
Some towers have service lifts to reach the ‘engine room’ of these towers. However, workers must climb fixed ladders for mundane maintenance and individual tasks. With the increased height of wind farm turbines, workers will have to climb higher.
Fixed ladders on wind turbines pose numerous dangers to employees. Working at heights during the installation and upkeep of wind turbines can directly lead to injuries such as:
- Sprains and strains
- Falling from heights
- Getting over-tired
- Even fatalities
Indirect dangers, such as those listed below, can also happen, such as:
- Being electrocuted as a result of contact with high-voltage cables
- Being hit by falling objects
- Being caught or snagged between objects
When a wind turbine isn’t working, specialists need to identify the issue as soon as possible and fix it. Wind farm service technicians is one profession with the most significant rates of injuries and illnesses.
Causes of Wind Farm Climbing Accidents
As wind farms become a recognized renewable energy source, new materials, technologies, and procedures expose workers to specific occupational risks.
When climbing outside wind farm towers, many factors can put you at risk of getting hurt. For instance:
- The climbing pegs are set up in a way that may need special skills, a lot of physical strength, or a lot of upper-body effort
- The climber is also forced to use awkward, asymmetric, and unbalanced positions
- Even though there is always a fall protection system in place, problems can still happen
- The safety cable could get caught, or the worker could end up hanging by the system and cause soft tissue injuries if the worker hits the tower while swinging around
- Workers often carry their tools in a bucket tied to them, which can swing in the wind or with movement, which could make them lose their balance
- You cannot maintain a three-point link during the tie-downs of the fall safety system and while working on the nacelle
Last but not least, descending the ladder poses the additional risk of a lack of vision of where to step. This may result in a higher rate of near-rung misses and cause injuries.
Employer Responsibilities To Minimize An Injury on Site
Given that climbing in wind turbine towers comes with several risks, what can employers do to lessen them? There are several OSHA rules for making climbing rungs and ladders for turbines safer.
Primary industry standards govern wind turbine maintenance work published at 29 CFR 1910.23(d). These define platform spacing and cage specifications.
Spacing of Rungs In a Ladder
For example, the lowest perpendicular spacing between each rung of the ladder and any constriction at the back of the ladder must be at least seven inches. In addition, the least clearance between the ladder center and any obstructions on the climbing side of the ladder must be at least 30 inches. Otherwise, employers can provide deflection equipment, reducing the clearance to a minimum of 24 inches.
Fall Safety Systems
Aside from the standards covering some dangers, fall safety systems are a straightforward way to make things safer. However, you must use must these correctly, which takes specialized training.
But there are parts of the wind farm towers where you cannot use or rely on fall safety systems. For example while:
- Switching ladders at platforms
- In the top parts of the wind farm towers
- By the entrance to the nacelle
- In other places where there isn’t enough room
Climb-assist devices can also help reduce fatigue by making it easier to climb the ladder. However, these devices have the same problems as safety device systems when it comes to training and not being available all the time in the industry.
Other Ways to Minimize Dangers while Climbing Wind Turbines
There are several other ways to minimize the risks of an accident while climbing wind turbines. These include the following:
- By performing routine checks and maintenance
- Clearing debris from the ladder’s rungs
- Equipping employees with improved gloves and slip-resistant footwear
- Enhancing lighting around dark areas
- Clearing the area around the ladder
- Limiting activity when winds are high
- Limiting work activity with other unfavorable weather conditions
Wind Farm companies can help diminish accident rates if they follow some or all of the above tasks.
Highly specialized industry-specific training can help reduce or eliminate various risks, including those associated with wind farm ladder climbing. This kind of training lowers the number of wind farm injuries and deaths in companies that use it.
Wind farms have taken many steps to reduce the risks of ladder climbing in the wind power industry. However, there are still many risks caused by the frequency and nature of the work.
The best solution might be installing service lifts in the wind farm towers. Service lifts minimize many of the risks that come with climbing a wind farm ladder.
Simply installing a service lift may reduce muscular strain, which in itself has the ability to:
- Increase productivity
- Attract and retain a more diverse staff
- Boost worker retention rates
Service lifts provide for the safe transport of materials, which is a bonus. The benefits to worker safety and productivity surpass the higher expenses of installing service lifts in all wind farm towers, especially in new installations.
If I am Injured, Can I Claim Compensation?
As previously said, wind power is rapidly emerging as a significant contributor to the United States’ energy portfolio, particularly in Houston, Texas. You get wind farms both offshore and inland. As we’ve seen, the wind energy sector is growing, which means more jobs.
Workers in the wind energy industry, both onshore and offshore, are exposed to potential dangers during the installation, operation, and maintenance of the turbines and associated infrastructure. Of course, injuries will occur.
If you get hurt while working on an offshore wind farm, whether it’s during construction or maintenance, you may be able to collect damages under maritime law. Compensation for the following may be available to you under maritime law, but it all depends on who was involved, what was involved, where it happened, and when it happened:
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is complicated. To get Jones Act benefits, you must meet the Act’s and precedent’s definition of a seaman. Therefore, establishing if you are a seaman through the Jones Act might be challenging.
A seaman is a crew member who works on a marine vessel and contributes to its mission. “On navigation” means the ship is afloat, operating, in navigable waters, and able to move. Wind turbines are “floating” structures. Hence they’re considered “in navigation.”
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was passed partly to address accidents on the seabed and subsoil of the Outer Continental Shelf. However, it also covers all man-made islands and installations that are either permanently or temporarily affixed to the seabed to exploit offshore oil, gas, and wind power.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act protects workers who satisfy specific criteria and are, as a result, able to receive disability payments (whether temporary or permanent) based on the severity of their injuries, the cost of their care, and the progress they’ve made in rehabilitation.
Workmen’s Compensation Claims for Inland Wind Farm Accidents
Most injured workers can’t sue their employers and must collect workers’ compensation. However, when an employer intentionally causes an injury, workers’ compensation isn’t their only option.
Injured workers should consult a wind farm personal injury lawyer to discover if an exception applies. A wind farm accident lawyer may identify a responsible third party if their employer can’t be sued.
Get The Compensation You Are Entitled To!
Working for the wind farm industry can pay well, but it can also be one of the riskiest places to work in. When an accident does happen, it’s normal for the victims to suffer injuries that, if they can be overcome at all, will take a long time to heal. When this happens, you may ask yourself, do I need a lawyer?
Injury compensation laws are incredibly complicated in this industry. Therefore, any worker who has been hurt while working at a wind farm should speak with an expert wind farm injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.