When the Wind Blows: Examining Wind Turbine Risks
CvPA recently handled a wind farm accident in South Texas, where some dangerous premises injured a contractor. Wind farms, like any form of energy production, wind power has its share of accidents and incidents that can result in injury or damage to equipment.
One of the most common types of accidents at wind farms is blade failure. Wind turbine blades can be up to 80 meters long and spin at very high speeds, making them susceptible to damage from strong winds, lightning strikes, and other environmental factors. When a blade fails, it can result in pieces of the blade being thrown from the turbine, potentially causing damage or injury to people or property in the vicinity. Fixing the turbine and the broken blade has its own sets of risks and red flags. Workers are continuously put in harm’s way on a tall tower to get the power pumping as quickly as possible.
Another common incident is like the one we just handled – dangerous premises. At a wind farm, which is typically remote areas of farmland, heavy equipment is rolled onto the premises. As we learned in this case, the plan is to have the tower operational as soon as possible, despite the risks of the contractors in the field. When the operation gets pushed forward, safety policies are pushed to the side. With heavy equipment and simultaneous operations occurring, the area can develop dangerous pitfalls in the work zone, which will remain unfixed because of the time constraints. Workers need to be aware of these risks while working on these sites.
Another type of accident that can occur at wind farms is fires. While wind turbines are designed to be as safe as possible, they still contain a significant amount of electrical equipment and other components that can generate heat and spark fires. In some cases, fires can be caused by lightning strikes, while in other cases they may be the result of faulty wiring or other equipment failures.
Electrical hazards: Wind turbines contain a significant amount of electrical equipment, which can pose a hazard to workers if not properly installed or maintained. Electrical shocks and burns can occur if workers come into contact with live wires or improperly grounded equipment. A system of check-and-balances is needed to ensure the safety of these operations while working on the electrical grid.
Finally, the most common form of these accidents is linked to human error: like any complex piece of machinery, wind turbines are susceptible. Accidents can occur if workers make mistakes during installation or maintenance, or if they do not follow proper safety procedures. With multiple companies working all at the same time during a time crunch, these types of accidents have become more common place.
Finding the liable parties is where our experience is needed. In most of the accidents, the injured parties typically have worker’s compensation, which prevents a lawsuit against their employer. However, we can get creative. We have found that wind farms have multiple corporate layers and responsibilities that can mean other big companies were responsible for creating and maintaining a safe environment. Injured workers are typically told by their employers that it simply an unfortunate accident, but we have found that in many cases, there was a company that simply messed up.
If you or a loved one was injured at a wind farm, please contact us for a free consultation.