Wind Industry, OSHA Form Safety ‘Alliance’

It’s a pretty scary combination when you think about it: Lofty heights, large spinning rotors, high-voltage electricity and weather exposure – no doubt about it, wind-power industry workers face a lot of risks. It’s why they go through rigorous training programs covering things like emergency response and rescue, electrical safety and working at heights. This training helps build a culture of worker safety, the industry says, but it’s hard to know how successful these efforts really are and how consistently they are followed by companies. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects injury and illness data for various energy industries, the wind information isn’t separated out.

Now, however, there might be hope for a more rigorous, consistent and accountable focus on safety. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an alliance – called “Alliance” – culminating more than a year and a half of collaborative work to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Worker On Wind Turbine

image via NREL

AWEA said its goals and objectives for Alliance include standardizing and improving safety and health practices in the industry; developing and maintaining an open line of communication with OSHA to ensure safe practices; assisting OSHA in understanding the safety and health issues within the wind industry; and ensuring consistent application of safety compliance and enforcement initiatives across the country.

AWEA is also said it is in the process of collecting anonymous and voluntary data on safety and health in the wind energy industry to develop baseline statistics.

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Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

    • Edward Oliver

      AWEA’s Labor, Health & Safety Policy Manager, Michele Mihelic isn’t as interested in safety as her title would seem. She has resorted to intimidation and false claims cleverly aimed at those trying to inform the industry about overlooked safety hazards that exist industrywide that also violate current OSHA regulations. Claims of people illegally posing as OSHA Compliance Officers threatening wind farm operators with citations unless a specific product was purchased to remedy the hazard. Why would anyone be crazy enough to try that? Why isn’t she more interested in trying to remedy to the safety hazard? In my opinion this “alliance” is a joke and only exists to help the industry avoid fixing as many of the existing safety problems as possible. My proof, some state OSHA’s are either not taking action on complaints regarding this issue, or have closed the file on complaints regarding specific OSHA violations because of this “alliance” and informing those who complain that the operators are seeking a variance (a pass) on these safety issues.