Wind energy site safety: How to protect workers from falls
Fall protection is crucial to safeguarding wind project workers. In fact, wind farm construction workers must be protected from the risk of falling when they work at heights of six feet or greater, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction industry Subpart M (§1926.500) fall protection standard. Meanwhile, general industry standards require workers to be protected from falls when they are at heights of four feet or more. Working above these elevations is common in the wind industry, so follow these guidelines to ensure compliance with OSHA and fall safety for your workers. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Work on Wind Turbines
- Required PPE for workers exposed to a fall at or greater than six feet shall include an approved personal fall arrest system (PFAS) (commonly used systems in wind are the safety climb up the fixedladder, twin-tail lanyard, and even Self-Retracting Lifelines [SRLs]).
- All fall arrest equipment shall be designed and intended for industrial climbing.
- Harnesses shall be full-body type and shall fit the employee properly.
- Ladder climbing devices shall be designed for the cable or ladderclimbing safety system installed on the structure; this is most often a3/8” safety climb cable.
- For work that would exposes an employee to a free fall distancegreater than six feet (e.g., working on top of the roof of a nacelle) a12-foot free fall personal energy-absorbing lanyard (“12 ft FF”) must beused, as referenced by ANSI Z359.13.
- For all other turbine and met tower climbing, fall arrest lanyards shallbe, at a minimum, 6 foot free fall (“6 ft FF”) twin-tail lanyards.
- Employees may select positioning lanyards at their discretion,although the positioning lanyard must be designed for industrialclimbing purposes.
- Fall-arrest lanyards must not be used other than for fall-arrestprotection purposes.
- Harnesses used for tower climbing shall have, at a minimum, bothdorsal (back) and chest D-rings. Shock absorbing lanyards used fortower climbing shall be double-legged to facilitate 100% tie off.
- Like any other system, a PFAS is only as good as its weakest link, sothe choice of anchorage is critical. The anchorage is the secure pointof attachment for the lanyards. Due to the significant forces generatedduring a fall, the anchorage must be capable of supporting at least5,000 pounds.
Wind turbine equipment inspection
- Employees shall inspect their equipment prior to use daily. On aquarterly basis, a more thorough inspection should be performed anddocumented.
- All equipment that is damaged shall be taken out of service.
General industry safe work practices for climbing
- Maintain 100 percent tie-off at all times when exposed to a fall distance of or greater than six feet, utilizing aproperly installed fall arrest device (i.e., safety climb system, twin-tailed fall arrest lanyards, and selfretractinglifeline).
- A climber’s hands, gloves, and shoes must be free of mud, grease, or other slippery foreign substancesprior to climbing.
- All tools and parts must be secured to an employee’s body with a lanyard, stored in a closeable pocket,or carried in a closeable bag or bucket.
- Never position or climb within the fall distance of a climber above. This fall distance will vary dependingon the fall arrest equipment being used and must be continuously evaluated by both climbers.
- Rest regularly while climbing.
- Do not use safety climb system as a resting device; rest at turbine platforms or utilize a positioninglanyard while resting.
- Whenever possible, ground personnel should remain clear of the tower during all climbing activities. Ifground personnel must work near the base of a tower while climbing occurs, they must remaincontinuously aware of hazards overhead.
- A trained employee is the final component of a PFAS.
- No employee should be permitted or required to use a PFAS unless they have been thoroughly trained in the nature of the fall hazards, use, inspection,maintenance, and limitations of the fall protection system.
Wind turbine climbing safe work practices
- Climb tower only when turbine is in the “off” position unless otherwise trained and authorized by the sitesafety manager or operations and maintenance representative.
- Climbers should close platform doors after passing through them.
- Correct or report any loose parts found on a tower or nacelle.
- The first person to climb the tower ladder should wipe any grease or oil from the ladder or climbingsurfaces.
- If turbine elevators or climbing assistance devices are to be used, follow all safety instructions and rulesgiven by the equipment manufacturer, turbine manufacturer, and site staff.
Bear in mind that a PFSA is not intended to prevent falls, but merely prevent the employee from contactinga lower surface in the event of a fall. In selecting a PFSA, the fall distance must be calculated to ensure itprevents an individual from striking anything below.