California Worker Dies after Blade Falls Off Wind Machine

By Paul Gipe

The Associated Press circulated a news item on 14 January 2019 about a field hand killed near Visalia when the blade of a “wind machine” fell off. See California orchard worker dies after 600-pound blade falls off wind machine.

I am including this item under the section Accidents & Safety on my web site for two reasons.

First, it is to make a factual record of an occupational death that had nothing to do with wind turbines or wind energy despite the words “wind machine.” It wouldn’t surprise me to see a reference to this accident circulated by anti-wind energy lobbyists worldwide, including such disreputable sources as National Wind Watch in the United States. These groups seldom let facts get in the way of their propaganda.

Second, the incident shows that even a long-established industry–orchard fans–has fatal accidents. It shouldn’t be, but that is the case here. This is the first time that I’ve heard of such a fatal accident from “wind machines,” as the term is used here, and I’ve been tracking the fatalities in the wind industry for four decades.

In the early days of the wind energy industry the term “wind machine” was used interchangeably with wind turbine. I used the term myself for wind turbine in my first book in 1983. However, I explained that the term was also used for the giant fans used to stir the air in an orchard on a cold winter night.

The reference in the article to a 600-pound blade seems out-of-place. I can’t imagine that orchard fans used blades this large, but I haven’t investigated the topic. The orchard fans I’ve seen around here couldn’t support two 600-pound blades.