Fall Protection for the Wind Industry

Wind power is quickly becoming one of the leading alternative energy option available. With it's popularity comes the need for a renewed focus on safety.

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Published on: July 6, 2013

As alternative energies grow to be more necessary for electricity generation, wind power is quickly becoming one of the leading methods available. While wind turbines are being constructing in fields and open prairies across the country, with these machines comes the need for more workers doing installation and maintenance. These technicians face difficult work at soaring heights, and they need proper fall protection equipment, fall arrest training and a regular fall protection system Inspection of the equipment in order to stay safe.

With wind energy currently providing power to more than 10 million homes in the United States and projections double that figure in the coming years, wind industry maintenance workers must be protected from hazards in their work environment. International industry standards dictate that fall protection protocols be in place to protect these workers during the construction, operation, and maintenance of wind turbines. These are just a few of the safety measures in place for the safety of workers and managers in the wind power industry:

Ladder structures

Concealed within the wind turbines are ladders constructed from lightweight aluminum. While not as sturdy as the steel ladders that are used to haul heavy materials up the turbine, these safety ladders are certainly strong enough for climbing inside the turbines.

Vertical fall arrest systems

Located in the turbine towers, these systems typically include a steel cable or aluminum rail that runs the span of the tower. Workers are required to wear full-body harnesses that are tethered to this system, and they can climb up and down the ladder structures while being attached. In the event of an accident, the system arrests the fall of the worker.

Work-positioning lanyards

Used largely during the assembly of the nacelle, these lanyards are also connected to the full-body harnesses worn by workers to stop falls. The lanyard is especially useful because it acts as a loose tether that allows workers freedom of movement and the use of both hands while providing a safety net in case of a fall.

Self-retracting lifelines and shock-absorbing lanyards

Working in similar manners, these safety precautions are attached to an anchorage point on one end and the workers’ safety harnesses on the other end.

Twin-leg lanyards

Another option for dangerous turbine work, the twin-leg lanyards offer 100 percent tie-off protection, meaning that lanyards extend from the worker’s harness and are anchored to two different points for mobility and safety.

Safety harnesses

These harnesses must be both comfortable and lightweight because many workers will wear them all day throughout the construction and maintenance process. Effective harnesses must also feature a number of anchor points in order to provide connections to a variety of lifelines and lanyards.

Horizontal rail systems

This type of system is generally installed following the construction of the wind turbine to provide fall protection during maintenance procedures. Most horizontal rail systems are integrated in the nacelle as well.

All wind industry protection equipment must be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that the pieces are operating perfectly and without fail. During a fall protection system inspection, experienced and highly trained inspectors provide load testing of tiebacks to ensure that they will hold the full weight of a load in case of a fall and a horizontal lifeline inspection to test the safety of that system of equipment.

In addition to these pieces of fall safety equipment, all workers and managers in the wind industry must be provided with fall arrest training. Workers who experience a fall are best served by timely and experienced rescue, and wind turbine workers must attend on-site training courses to learn how to properly operate the safety equipment and execute a rescue plan. With these provisions in place, workers in the wind industry can do their jobs with greater peace of mind.

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