Windfarm safety criticised after two workers killed in a fortnight
Thursday 6th April 2017
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A 32-year-old Spanish worker was killed on 29 March when he plunged from a wind turbine in East Renfrewshire, Scotland.
The turbine, which is part of Scottish Power Renewables' (SPR) 539MW Whitelee onshore windfarm, was under maintenance by GE at the time of the incident.
The fatality came just a fortnight after Portuguese worker Antonio Linares, 37, fell to his death inside a turbine that was being built at SPR's Kilgallioch onshore windfarm in South Ayrshire.
The victim was employed by Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer which, along with Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is investigating what happened.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Steve Dillon said: "In recent years there have been far too many deaths and injuries involving windfarms. These installations are usually in remote locations and there is a concern that these tragedies have not received the same focus if they had occurred in more populous areas.
"Swift action needs to be taken to improve workers' safety and wellbeing and to understand how these incidents occurred. The Health and Safety Executive needs to bring together all concerned to learn the lessons and improve safety and welfare in this sector."
The deputy chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, Maf Smith, said in a statement: "All wind turbine manufacturers, installers and owners regard health, safety and wellbeing as the very highest priorities, and work diligently to ensure that they meet extremely rigorous health and safety standards.
"In these rare but tragic circumstances it's important to ensure that our industry learns from incidents and implements any lessons promptly. A full investigation is currently under way.
"The wind industry works closely with the HSE to ensure that the highest standards are maintained and constantly improved on. We understand that the organisations involved are working with the HSE to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and ensure that the appropriate action is taken."
The 49-year-old also sustained a fractured spleen and ribs in the 3.5 m fall. Bristol Magistrates’ Court was told that the victim had been contracted by Solarjen - formerly Paul O’Brien Solar Installations (SW) - to carry out work at Fairlawn School in Montpelier. However, the firm had not erected guardrails to prevent its employees falling through voids in the roof. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also said it had failed to appropriately supervise the task.
The need for a dedicated apprenticeship programme was raised at the London Health and Safety Directors Forum recently. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has facilitated setting up an employer’s working group – SHE Apprenticeship Trailblazer – to address this gap in the market, while construction and civil engineering firm Costain has volunteered to lead it.
At the same time, the research identifies an increase in the use of management systems approaches to OSH as managers or specialists take on responsibility for safety and health management.The qualitative study builds on EU-OSHA’s second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2).
If Electricity North West had planned the operation properly and supervised the safe clearance of the ivy, 63-year-old John Flowers would not have needed to use a ladder to climb the wooden pole to cut away the vegetation. It is believed that, trying to chop through the heavy plant growth, Flowers accidentally severed a lanyard securing his harness to the pole and fell around 6 m.
Coventry Magistrates’ Court heard last week that principal contractor JDB Industrial Roofing had brought in ACD Roofing to complete recladding on a fragile roof. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that when the work commenced on 15 December 2015, ACD Roofing did not install nets nor guardrails. The mobile elevating platform (MEWP) which had been provided as an anchor point for the fall arrest equipment did not have enough capacity. Also, when the injured worker fell, his harness was not attached to anything.