Accidents & Safety
I’ve been concerned about safely working with wind energy since 1976 when I nearly killed myself taking down a 1930s-era windcharger. While wind energy is an environmentally beneficial technology–and that’s the reason we need to use it–it can and has killed. Consequently, I’ve been tracking fatal accidents in wind energy since I wrote an obituary for a colleague, Terry Mehrkam, in 1981. For this reason, my books on wind energy have always included a section on safety.
A worker lost his life on Friday, 28 July, in Tarifa (Cadiz) after being trapped in a wind turbine, according to the emergency services. The event occurred at around midday, when the 112 emergency telephone operators handled a call from a worker who was trapped in the hub (the part of the machine where a shaft is supported and rotates) of a turbine, at a height of 130 metres. The turbine was located at kilometre 90 of the N-340. Emergency services, including a helicopter ambulance, the Guardia CIvil, fire brigade and police were deployed to the scene. The health services on the scene were only able to confirm the death of the worker. No further information has been released on how this incident occurred.
The turbine was built back in 2008 along the banks of the River Hull. Standing at an astonishing 125m, it has been a part of the Hull skyline for over 15 years.
Three of the five codefendants charged with manslaughter for their alleged involvement in the death of a Chehalis man who died in January 2020 when a trench collapsed during construction of the Skookumchuck Wind Farm have filed motions asking Lewis County Superior Court to dismiss all charges against them.
Two firms have been fined nearly £900,000 over the death of a security worker left in freezing conditions at a wind farm in East Ayrshire.
Presentation to Winterwind 2021 21 April on a Comparison of Wind’s Fatalities to that of Other Industries. Wind energy’s hazards, like its appearance on the landscape, are readily apparent. Wind energy hides no latent killers, no black lung, for example. When wind kills, it does so directly and with gruesome effect.
The family of a Chehalis wind farm worker who died last year while on the job has settled a wrongful death claim for $12 million after filing suit in King County Superior Court.
Tower Climbing Safety
- Ellis Fall Safety Solutions (fallsafety.com)
- Introduction to Fall Protection, Fifth Edition, Print/Digial Bundle, American Society of Safety Engineers by J. Nigel Ellis, Ph.D., CSP, P.E., CPE
- Before Climbing That Tower by Mick Sagrillo; a checklist before climbing a guyed-lattice tower to perform an inspection of a small wind turbine.
- Draft Best Practices in Small Wind: Tower Climbing Safety by Mick Sagrillo; background on the Tower Climbing Safety document developed by the Small Wind Conference and small wind turbine installation professionals.
- RenewablesUK (Great Britain): Working at Height and Rescue–Wind Turbines Standard
In 2013 I pulled together some links to documents on safety relative to the wind industry. These topics went beyond simply tower climbing safety and safety at height and included work around rotating machinery and other common industrial hazards. Unfortunately, the industry has changed dramatically in the past decade. Most safety documents once freely available are now securely hidden by paywalls. Moreover, even the wind energy trade associations where these documents were once located have ceased to exist, merging with other renewable trade associations. Some of the British documents are still available and I’ve provide links to them. I found one public document on the off shore industry in the USA.
Contact the Clean Power Association.
Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms, Transportation Research Board, 2012.
Contact the Canadian Renewable Energy Association.
Mortal Accident Summary
I no longer actively track deaths in the wind industry. However, I will update my data as it becomes available. Below is a presentation updating my statistics to 2020. Also below is a link to the original article. For a complete analysis see Chapter 17 in my most recent book Wind Energy for the Rest of Us.
- Wind—the Breath of Life or the Kiss of Death: Analysis of Wind Energy Fatalities, 15 April 2021. Presentation to Winterwind 2021 21 April on a Comparison of Wind’s Fatalities to that of Other Industries.
- Wind Energy — The Breath of Life or the Kiss of Death: Contemporary Wind Mortality Rates, 6 December 2012 update. The original article appeared in the fall of 2001.
Note that the spreadsheet has six tabs. This is only the summary page and does not include all the data on the summary page.
My Deaths Database is publicly available. Simply ask for it.