Did you know that there are approximately 70,000 wind turbines across the continental US?
Wind turbines provide renewable energy that reduces our reliance on coal and oil. They often have a minimal environmental impact when compared to competing options. But despite all their pluses, wind turbines aren’t without fault.
Wind turbine installation risks pose a major threat to construction workers who erect them. These are large, expensive pieces of machinery. They require specialized installation, which may lead to injuries or even death.
If you work building a wind farm or plan to, know the risks the industry poses. Keep reading as we discuss what things construction workers should be on the lookout for when building wind turbines.
What Are the Parts of a Wind Turbine?
A wind turbine has three basic components:
- The tower: a steel tube that contains a ladder, allowing wind turbines to reach higher wind currents
- The rotor: the machine that converts wind energy into electricity
- The blades: these are the propeller-like blades that generate lift from the wind and in turn create electricity
There are many different kinds of wind turbines, but we’ll focus on the most common ones. These are the large towers you might see on a wind farm, which make up the bulk of US wind turbines.
How Does a Wind Turbine Work?
In order to make renewable energy, engineers must find creative ways to harness naturally occurring resources. Renewable resources, as the name implies, can be renewed and don’t run out. The wind is one of these resources.
To convert wind into electricity, engineers use the same principle as hydroelectric or nuclear. They spin a rotor, which generates electricity via a coil. This electricity does not require burning harmful fossil fuels into the atmosphere.
A wind turbine uses the same principle as an airplane to generate electricity. The air passes by the rotor blades and their foils. This creates lift, resulting in areas of high and low pressure.
Thanks to lift, the rotor blades spin. The spin of the blade turns the turbine, which generates clean electricity. The wind farm then sends the accumulated energy to a substation, where it becomes part of the grid.
How Do Construction Workers Build Wind Turbines?
Before you build a wind turbine, you have to choose the ideal location. This is a tricky science that involves selecting land that has some of the following characteristics:
- Consistent wind speed of at least 15.5 MPH
- An open area that isn’t obstructed by buildings or trees
- A valley or mountainous area which concentrates wind flow
- Close to the grid to reduce loss of power in transmission
- A place that provides all the necessary permits to build a wind farm
Once this is established, construction on wind turbines may begin. Construction tends to happen with the following steps:
- Tower construction: using a crane, operators lower the tower into place and bolt it onto a concrete pad
- Raising the nacelle and rotor: the assembled rotor is lifted onto the top and bolted into place
- Bolting on the blades: wind turbine blades are huge and require careful placement and attachment
Wind Turbine Installation Risks
Unfortunately, there are significant risks when installing a wind turbine. The most obvious among these is the height; construction workers often work suspended high above the ground.
Second, they are working with heavy machinery and parts. These parts weigh tons and tons, presenting a risk if operators are not careful during assembly.
Last but not least, these are heavy parts suspended high above the ground. If not secured properly before raising them up, they can come crashing down. The bolts necessary to secure these parts can also fall and cause serious injuries.
Common Wind Turbine Accidents
Common accidents include the following:
- A fall from a significant height due to improper belay procedures
- A fall from the internal ladder due to issues with the safety harness
- Collisions with components, resulting in blunt force trauma, broken bones, and concussions
- Fingers or limbs crushed by heavy equipment
- Accidents related to crane operation
- Being struck by falling mechanical components used to secure the tower, rotor, or blades
- Suffering electric shocks while dealing with high voltage
These accidents can occur as a result of operator negligence, or faulty equipment. In some rare cases, they can result from the poor judgment of the construction workers themselves.
Whatever the case, even in the event that it’s your fault, the construction company owes you worker’s compensation. You may suffer life-changing injuries that leave you with costly medical expenses. You’ve risked your life to provide value to this company, and it’s the ethical thing to do for them to rehabilitate you.
But the sad reality is that companies may do everything in their power to avoid compensating you. You may be forced to contact an attorney to sue for damages.
Why You Should Get Legal Assistance if Injured in Wind Turbine Installation
You may believe that your company can do you no wrong. Hopefully that ends up being the case. However, every business has a bottom line, and that bottom line suffers when they make payouts to injured employees who cannot work.
Businesses, unfortunately, have every incentive to pay you the smallest amount possible. You should not go into these disputes alone. Remember, the law is on your side and favors workers’ rights over the company.
Let’s discuss the reasons why you need a wind turbines injuries lawyer following an injury.
The Internal Investigation Will Likely Go Against You
Companies have their own internal investigators whose job is to evaluate accidents for liability. This is an official that is bought and paid for by the company, meaning their interests will be aligned with the company. They will conduct an investigation and view everything through the lens of reducing liability.
As a result, they may provide an unfavorable verdict. They may deem that you alone are responsible for your injuries. That, or they may offer a meager payout that does not cover your costs.
A lawyer can fight this decision and threaten legal action if they don’t comply. They can conduct their own investigation and determine where the fault really lies.
Evidence Necessary for Compensation May Disappear
In the process of righting the wrongs, companies may obscure or remove evidence. They may not preserve the documentation that details how and why you were injured. This can make it difficult to proceed with claims.
Attorneys can interfere with this chicanery, ensuring that evidence is preserved. That makes it easier to make your claim during subsequent investigations such as with OSHA.
You May Be Able to Sue Other Companies Responsible for Your Injuries
In some cases, the equipment that failed is to blame for the injuries. There was no negligence or ill intention as far as your company is concerned. Faulty equipment may appear to be in excellent working condition only to fail without warning.
A responsible third party is just as responsible as your employer for damages. For example, a company that supplies rope for belaying must pay damages if their rope broke before reaching its weight limit. The same applies to components of the wind turbine that fail prematurely.
With legal help, you may be able to secure more compensation than if you sued the company alone.
You May Require Extensive Recovery
The injuries from a wind turbine accident are often severe. They may leave you with debilitating wounds that take a long time to heal or require extensive surgeries. These surgeries likely won’t be covered by an insurance provider.
Worker’s compensation may cover the surgery, but will it cover the recovery?
Serious injuries can often rob a person of their basic functions, like walking or taking care of oneself. Most can return to full function after the fact, but this can take weeks or months. This means hiring physical therapists to help you relearn to walk or perform other functions.
Attorneys can ensure you get enough compensation to get you through all stages of recovery.
You May Lose Wages
Another factor to consider is that you won’t be able to work during the time you’re injured and recovering. This is known as lost wages. While you may have compensation for your injuries, you still require the money to pay your bills and afford food.
Lost wages often don’t make it into the equation, making you effectively unemployed. You may be forced to find work-from-home solutions outside your industry. This means that when you should be resting and recovering, you’ll be working.
If you require extensive visits to the hospital or physical therapist, you simply cannot work. It’s for these reasons that having lost wages compensated is so important. This allows you to focus on recovery until you’re ready to return to the job.
Contact an Attorney Today
Wind turbine installation risks can be huge and may leave you with devastating injuries. Your company may drag its feet in providing worker’s compensation and may play underhanded to give you a smaller payout. With the help of an attorney, you can ensure you get the highest payout possible and the justice you deserve.