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.
Update: The most current database for the number of fatal accidents in the wind industry. Below is a summary table from the spreadsheet. Note that there are four other tabs not reproduced here. . .
Note that the article below is out of date. See the most current database for the number of fatal accidents in the wind industry. Below is a summary table from the spreadsheet. Note that there are four other tabs not reproduced here.
I knew Terry Mehrkam. I wrote about him. I also wrote his obituary. I hope I never have to write another obituary about someone working on a wind turbine.
Any wind turbine and tower that cannot be safely lowered to the ground for servicing should have a fall arresting system for ascending, descending, and working atop the tower, a sturdy work platform, and safe, clearly identifiable anchorage points for attaching your lanyard. No one should climb a tower of any type unless they’ve received training in tower safety. . .
Robert Skarski died in 1993 while installing a small wind turbine at his Illinois home. He was killed when the tower he was on buckled and fell to the ground.
On October 16, 2003 a 25-year old technician fell inside a 100-meter tall Enercon E66 tower, struck his head, and died according to an account in a local German newspaper. The man, unnamed in the Prinzitger Zeitung article, was performing warranty service on a ladder when he fell.
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.