AWEA to apply to OSHA for variances for wind turbine ladders

April 11, 2014

Author(s): Michele Mihelic

AWEA is currently in the process of doing the groundwork to apply for permanent variances from OSHA’s fixed ladder standard for the ladders inside wind turbines.  AWEA will need to apply for various variances related to ladders that are contained in both the Construction (1926.1053) and General Industry (1910.27) OSHA regulations.  The standards in both are similar, simply applying to different stages of a project: construction and operations, respectively.

OSHA has previously found that flanges at each tower section in wind turbines may violate its regulations by reducing the clearance on the climbing side of a fixed ladder to less than the OSHA-required minimum clearance distance and, in some instances, protruding into that climbing space (requiring deflector plates to be installed if within certain distances).  So, for both the Construction and General Industry regulations, we would seek variances of the applicable standards.  

As part of our application for a permanent variance, we would also request that OSHA grant an interim order allowing the industry to deviate from these two standards while OSHA is reviewing our permanent variance applications.  OSHA does require that as part of the application the industry (i.e., employers who apply) must comply with agreed upon conditions that are outlined within the variance application. AWEA Environmental, Health, and Safety Committee members are actively engaged on the variance application and the development of these conditions. Also to note, the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) participating in the application have also worked to ensure that towers manufactured starting July1, 2014 will comply with the clearance distance requirement. 

AWEA is requesting this variance on behalf of the industry.  All employers in the wind industry who will have an employee exposed to this hazard should sign on to the variance application. Please contact Michele Mihelic if your organization is interested in participating in the applications.