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Wind turbines generate electricity from wind, and are being manufactured and installed all across the nation. Wind energy employers need to protect their workers from workplace hazards and workers should be engaged in workplace safety and health and need to understand how to protect themselves from these hazards.
While this is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique and OSHA has many standards that cover them. This page provides information about some of the hazards that workers in the wind energy industry may face.
Hazards and Controls
Wind Energy workers are exposed to hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries. Many incidents involving falls, severe burns from electrical shocks and arc flashes/fires, and crushing injuries have been reported to OSHA. Some examples are given below:
- On August 29, 2009 at 08:30 hours a 33-year-old male lineman was shocked as he grasped a trailer ramp attached to a low boy trailer containing an excavator. The excavator was being operated in anticipation of being off-loaded from the trailer. The trailer was parked on a rural aggregate road adjacent to an access road for a wind turbine generator. The excavator operator rotated the upper works of the machine prior to moving the machine from the trailer. During the rotation the boom contacted a 7,200 volt primary rural power line. The power line was approximately 12 feet from the road with the trailer parked approximately two feet from the road edge. The injured worker had entry wounds in his hands and exit wounds in his feet. He was transported by EMS, treated and admitted for observation at a local hospital. He was discharged approximately 24 hours later and returned to work the following day.
- On 05/10/09, the victim was working in the bottom power cabinet of a wind turbine. He was checking the electrical connections and came into contact with a bus bar and arc flash erupted, causing injury to the victim. Afterward the victim was taken to a hospital by their technician and was met by the ambulance on the way. After arriving at the hospital he was later transferred by med-vac to another hospital in Oklahoma City and was treated for injuries. On 06/02/09, the company was notified by a representative of the hospital that the victim was deceased.
- On November 11, 2005, worker #1 and two coworkers were removing and replacing a broken bolt in the nacelle assembly of a wind turbine tower that was approximately 200 feet above the ground. They were heating the bolt with an oxygen-acetylene torch when a fire started. Worker #1 retreated to the rear of the nacelle, away from the ladder access area. While the two coworkers were able to descend the tower, Worker #1 fell approximately 200 feet to the ground, struck an electrical transformer box, and was killed.
- At approximately 11:40 a.m. on June 17, 1992, a worker attempted to descend an 80 ft. ladder that accessed a wind turbine generator. The worker slipped or fell from the ladder and was killed. The victim was wearing his company-furnished safety belt, but the safety lanyards were not attached. Both lanyards were later discovered attached to their tie-off connection at the top of the turbine generator.
- A site foreman was replacing a 480-volt circuit breaker serving a wind turbine. He turned a rotary switch to what he thought was the open position in order to isolate the circuit breaker. However, the worker did not test the circuit to ensure that it wasdeenergized. The worker had placed the rotary switch in a closed position, and the circuit breaker remained energized by back feed from a transformer. Using two plastic-handled screwdrivers, the employee shorted two contacts on the breaker to discharge static voltage buildup. This caused a fault, and the resultant electric arc caused deep flash burns to the worker's face and arms and ignited his shirt. The worker was hospitalized in a burn unit for 4 days.
Additional information on wind energy can be found at the links below: