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Green Job Hazards: Wind Energy - Confined Spaces

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.

Wind Energy - Confined Spaces During manufacturing of equipment, wind energy employers need to look at the spaces that workers enter to determine if they meet OSHA’s definition of a confined space. By definition, a confined space:

  • Is large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work;
  • Is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee; and
  • Has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.

Some confined spaces have recognized hazards, such as low oxygen environments, which can pose a risk for asphyxiation, or accumulation of hazardous gases. These confined spaces are called permit-required confined spaces and require additional safety precautions.

Wind energy employers also need to look at the hazards of the confined spaces to determine whether those spaces are “permit-required” confined spaces (PRCS). By definition, a PRCS has one or more of these characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;
  • Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space;
  • Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section; and/or
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.

If workers are expected to enter permit-required confined spaces, the employer must develop a written permit space program and make it available to workers or their representatives. The permit space program must detail the steps to be taken to make the space safe for entry.

The configuration of all Nacelles will classify them as confined spaces and during the maintenance activities inside the Nacelles, workers may be exposed to hazards from electrical motors, gears, etc. Those hazards may classify a Nacelle to be a PRCS. Technicians working in Nacelles should make sure to perform air sampling (such as for low oxygen levels or other hazardous gases) prior to entering a Nacelle. It is recommended that the technician should always carry a portable gas monitor in their toolkit and make sure that it is maintained properly.

For further information on confined space hazards, OSHA's page on Confined Spaces should be consulted.

Some additional resources on confined spaces are provided below:

Resources

Additional information on wind energy can be found at the links below:

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