Wind energy provides around 10.2% of all energy in the US.
This makes it the largest renewable energy source in the country, and it’s growing every year. There are wind farms in various locations across the US, and a lot of work goes into keeping them running. Working on a wind farm is a physical job, and as with any physical job, certain risks exist.
If you work on a wind farm it’s important to know what these risks are so that you can avoid them. You also need to be fully prepared in case any accidents do happen.
For a guide on some of the main risks of working on a wind farm, keep reading.
What Is a Wind Farm?
A wind farm is an area that consists of multiple wind turbines, often covering hundreds of miles. The purpose of these turbines is to generate clean, renewable energy for later use. While wind farms can be very large, the land between the individual turbines can still serve a range of other purposes.
Wind farms are deliberately built in areas that consistently get strong winds to maximize efficiency. A common example is along coastlines where strong winds blow in from the sea.
Wind turbines convert wind energy into mechanical power. This goes through generators which convert it into electricity that can power homes. Like any mechanical equipment, proper maintenance is essential.
Potential Safety Hazards
Technicians work on wind turbines to keep these farms running efficiently. There’s a range of aspects to keeping wind turbines functioning, and in many job roles, people are exposed to certain hazards. If someone isn’t careful when working on a wind turbine, it could result in serious injury or even death.
When hazards become apparent, work is generally done to minimize the risk. Sometimes the risk can be completely eliminated, but when it can’t, certain precautions can keep the risk as low as possible. This comes in terms of procedural changes, employee training, safety equipment, and more.
One of the most obvious risks associated with working on wind turbines is a fall risk. The height of wind turbines can vary quite a lot, but they’re often upwards of 100 feet tall.
On top of the height, the very nature of wind turbines makes them somewhat worse. They’re specifically built in areas with high winds, which makes working at height even more dangerous.
Workers constantly have to climb up and down ladders. They’ll require harnesses, and while it can make things take a bit longer, they should always be using these properly. Other systems should be in place to protect people from potential falls.
When anyone is working at a height of more than 6 feet on a wind farm, there should be guard rails, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems. These should all be provided as standards, and any organization that fails to do so is in breach of regulations.
The construction stage of a wind farm also has a range of potential hazards. Various pieces of equipment are used to build the turbines, such as cranes. In any environment, unsafe behavior involving cranes can potentially lead to worksite fatalities.
Only workers who are fully trained and qualified should ever operate a crane. There should also be routine inspections before and after use.
Like wind turbines, the size of cranes can vary. The swing radius of the crane is a crucial factor. Any accessible areas within this radius should be fully barricaded off to prevent people from wandering into the unsafe area.
Cranes should only be in use on solid, stable ground to keep them secure. Outriggers should always be fully extended. This will maintain the stability of the crane while in operation.
There may be other obstructions to be cautious of depending on previous use of the land. Electrical power lines can often be a concern – when these are present there should always be a minimum of a 10-foot working clearance.
The internal structures of wind turbines are quite small, and this is where most of the work takes place. Because there isn’t much room, there will often only be enough space for one person at a time.
It’s safe to say that this isn’t a job that’s well suited to someone who suffers from claustrophobia. Panic attacks can be more common, especially as there are often lower oxygen levels inside a turbine.
Someone should only work inside a wind turbine if they’re comfortable working for extended periods in confined spaces. Everyone should also be aware of the exit routes from a turbine in case they need to get out quickly.
Everyone who works on a wind farm should have basic first aid training. They’re generally built in remote locations, which means in the event of an accident, it might take some time for emergency services to arrive.
When someone gets injured, if another person can provide proper first aid, it can mean the difference between life and death. This won’t be anywhere near hospital-level care, but being able to dress a wound or handle someone falling unconscious can be incredibly helpful until an ambulance arrives.
There should also be first aid kits readily available and easy to access. These should be regularly inspected as some components will expire with time.
A lot goes into building wind turbines, and during the process, there may be some exposure to harmful gases, vapors, and dust. These kinds of things can have serious long-term health effects, so no one should work around them without the proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
Things like masks and respirators are suitable for this. The exact types required will depend on what the workers are exposed to. Workers should know what type of PPE they need and where they can get it.
The whole purpose of wind turbines is to generate electricity, and they produce huge amounts of it. This makes electrocution one of the larger risks for anyone working on them.
When working with any electrical system, it’s crucial that the system is fully shut off to make sure electrocution is impossible. All staff should be trained in how to do this, as well as how to test the system to ensure no power is flowing through it. There are electrical components throughout all parts of a wind turbine, so people need to remain vigilant of this risk at all times.
The blades aren’t the only part of a wind turbine that moves. Various other internal moving components ensure the turbine works properly. Depending on the parts in question, these can cause serious injury if someone is hit by something moving at speed.
There are also things like gears that can catch loose clothing, for example. This could pull people in or throw them off balance, so workers need to be aware of the risks at all times. Everyone should be trained so that they know what moving parts there are and the risks they present.
There should also be markings and warning signs around moving parts. Floor marking tape is a good example as it can highlight where it may be dangerous for people to walk. This will ensure everyone can get around safely while the turbine is in operation.
Something that always comes with electrical systems is a fire risk. Various things could cause a fire such as electrical parts overloading, friction between moving parts if not properly lubricated, or even lightning striking a turbine.
As stated above, a wind turbine doesn’t have much space internally. This means a fire could make it very difficult for workers to escape.
Like with most working environments, fire safety should always be a priority. As people may be working at height, they should be provided with some type of quick descent devices such as an emergency drop line or a parachute so that they can safely escape if a fire breaks out.
This type of equipment takes special training, so this should be provided to everyone who may have to use it at some point. Workers should also be trained in the potential causes of fires in a wind turbine so that they can work to keep the risk minimized.
What to Do If You Get Injured Working on a Wind Farm
The focus should always be on preventing any injuries from occurring. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan, and you might get hurt. If you’ve had an accident while working on a wind turbine that has led to an injury, you may be seeking legal advice.
Morgan Legal Group focuses on personal injury and accident cases. We’re based in Houston, Texas, and can provide you with assistance if you’ve had an injury while working on a wind farm. If you’d like to organize a free consultation, click here to contact us today.