Wind turbine technicians often enjoy some of the best views and vistas available in a workplace. However, they also face a number of work-related hazards, which include climbing great heights, working with high voltage, and dealing with unpredictable weather conditions while servicing turbines in remote locations.
This is why having proper gear and knowing safety protocols is extremely important for all wind techs. Ecotech Institute’s Program Director for Wind Energy Technology Auston Van Slyke recently shared some of his expert safety tips with Windpower Engineering & Development Magazine.
According to Van Slyke, who also teaches a 60-hour wind-turbine safety course at Ecotech Institute, there are five major safety topics every wind tech should know:
- • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- • Working at heights
- • Safe tool use
- • Drop prevention
- • The Lock Out Tag Out procedure (LOTO)
LOTO is a procedure used to ensure that potentially hazardous equipment is properly turned off during maintenance. Van Slyke breaks it down into seven steps:
- 1. Identify the energy source
- 2. Turn off the energy
- 3. Verify zero energy state (with hot-cold-hot and 6-point check)
- 4. Protect against unexpected energizing
- 5. Perform work carefully
- 6. Make sure equipment is safe to re-energize
- 7. Turn on energy slowly (starting with the safest circuit first)
Van Slyke stresses the importance for wind techs to keep up with the current PPE regulations. For instance, he says: “There are some electrical cabinets in a wind turbine that require workers to suit up in what looks like a bomb suit. But better safe than sorry.”
Working at heights is another safety concern wind techs need to keep in mind. Van Slyke suggests two crucial safety tips: the 100 Percent rule, and the Three Points of Contact rule. These mean that a climber should be tied to an anchor point 100 percent of the time, and maintain three points of contact on the ladder: two feet and one hand, or one foot and two hands.
Safe tool use is yet another topic Van Slyke covers in his safety course.
“Hand injuries from misuse of tools are the number one cause of injury for wind techs,” he says. “Every wind tech needs to have training on their tools and for each new tool they use at a wind site to protect the entire jobsite.”
When it comes to the risk of dropped tools, the advice from Van Slyke is simple: “Never use a tool at heights that is not safely tied off to something. There are no excuses here.”
Despite all these potential hazards, however, Van Slyke notes: “A wind technician has a relatively safe job — providing they follow all the rules and use proper gear.”