By Trent Nylander
As a former wind tech and site manager I have seen first-hand the dangers faced day to day by the skilled technicians. With an industry short and in demand of trained professionals we have to deal with the fact that we are our best chance of survival when an accident does occur. As a technician we are provided and taught how to use our PPE and rescue equipment. Then told that we are our first line of rescue in the event of an emergency.
A major cause of deaths and accidents in the industry come from inexperienced sub-contractors. Skilled and trained in their jobs they lack any types of rescue at heights or self-rescue training. With the shortage of trained and skilled wind technicians in the industry, most technicians put in 50-60 hours weekly. Many sites are understaffed and overworked to meet corporate profit expectations.
It is well known in the industry that OSHA has had no guidelines when it comes to working in the wind industry. Knowingly the fact that OSHA’s guidelines and protocols stop at the door, leave a lot of safety systems bypassed or in such ill repair. The wind industry isn’t a new industry, and many of the first generations of turbines have been pushed beyond their 20-year lifecycle. And yet we are continuing to climb these huge structures with our lives in our own hands, with no oversight from OSHA.
The fact that OSHA has not trained a single inspector on these 300 feet high power plants since their inception is astonishing to say the least. When an incident occurs in a turbine, we are our best chance for rescue. Emergency responders have to wait on us to reach the bottom of the tower, as they too are untrained in rescue at heights. As the industry continues to grow at a feverish pace, we need to ensure the safety of all these technicians in the field. OSHA needs to address these concerns and more to give the employee of this industry a safe and healthy workplace.
Trent Nylander is the Wind Turbine Program Coordinator at Centura College-Norfolk and a GWA member.