Best Practices in Small Wind: Tower Climbing Safety

By MICK SAGRILLO

wind tower
Photo: Mick Sagrillo

By MICK SAGRILLO

Late last year, a technical college instructor in Indiana, working with students on a wind-training tower, fell 65 feet to his death. The 36-year-old instructor was wearing a full-body Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved safety harness. It’s not yet clear what went wrong.

He was not the first small wind worker to fall to his death. Two people died in separate incidents in the early 1980s, both due to risks that should not have been taken. In addition, one professional was crippled in the early 1990s in a fall while installing a tower.

Several years ago, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) convened a working group with OSHA and the utility-scale wind industry to write a best practices document for that segment of the industry. The issues associated with working on large wind turbines are vastly different from those of concern with small wind turbines. However, the industries share several missions and tasks, including working at height, with electricity and with mechanically moving equipment. Regardless, most safety practices developed for the utility wind industry would have little application to small wind.

And so, two years ago, a committee of installers and instructors organized to create a best practices document on tower climbing safety for small wind systems. The resulting “Best Practices in Small Wind: Tower Climbing Safety” (BPSW-TCS) document can be found at small windconference.com, under the “Resources” tab. While still a work in process, the document is an excellent start to what is expected to represent the final word in work- ing on small wind turbine towers.

 

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