With the increase in the use of wind power in various places across the world, the number of people who are working at wind farms as technicians will most likely increase. Like any other power generating station, wind farms expose the workers to a number of dangerous activities at the station. Cases of technicians’ electrocution while working on the wind turbines are common. Similarly, incidences of fall from the wind power masks that are highly raised are becoming normal cases. These activities not only pose danger to the safety of people while in the station but also to their health while they are out of the station. However, numerous efforts have been put in place including the requirement that every company operating a wind farm provides a health and safety guidelines to avoid cases of accidents. This paper discusses the most dangerous job that technicians do at the wind farms, especially when working on wind turbines.
According to Muyeen (2012), wind turbines are among the most dangerous workplaces on the earth. Almost all the work that workers at wind farms engage in poses danger to their safety. While working at the wind farms, technicians are exposed to a number of dangers ranging from exposure to strong winds with debris to electrical shocks and falls from wind masks during a climb. However, most of these dangers could be avoided if proper safety measures were formulated and implemented in the wind farms. Moreover, Muyeen (2012) has observed that most of the masks used in erecting wind turbines are made of metals that makes electric conduction easier. Unfortunately, it is masks that have led to many of the technicians being killed because of the electric shocks resulting from extremely high fault current. Therefore controlling fault current has remained to be the most dangerous job at wind turbines.
Electrical Systems and Safety Measures at Wind Turbines
Teschler (2011) indicates that among the main dangers to technicians working on wind turbines is extremely high fault currents that are available. This occurs when ground faults and short circuits occur in the system. Fault currents at wind turbines are caused by various factors including the numerous networked generators. Another cause of fault currents at wind turbines involves the transmission lines through which wind farms transfer power. These transmissions are able to transmit excess power in case of a fault current and therefore expose the technicians to the dangers of arc flash. According to Teschler (2011), cases of fatal arc faults are the major causes of technicians’ death at wind turbines. Statistics indicate that up to 7 people are hospitalized each day as victims of arc fault occurrences while working on turbines in America (Teschler, 2011).
Teschler (2011) further notes that the use of substandard equipment that does not meet the minimum requirements of NEC and IEEE is the main cause of danger to technicians at wind farms. The problem has been that because of management issues and remote location of wind farms, it is difficult to control the kind of equipments that technicians are given to use while working on wind turbines.
Additionally, he contends that it is important to enforce safety standards at wind farms so as to enhance the electrical troubleshooting. However, laxity in enforcing the standard has made electrical systems at wind farms problematic, especially with arc flashes. A danger to technicians working on wind turbines can be avoided due to proper standards. Nevertheless, this has not been the case, as most wind farms lack proper equipments and laxity in observing safety measures making avoidance of an emergency incident by technicians almost impossible.
Metal structures compose the largest part of wind turbines. Teschler (2011) indicates that companies which produce most of metal equipment do not observe safety standards and thus making that equipment hazardous to use at wind turbines. With technicians expected to climb the wind towers with as high as 34.5Kv cables, chances of electrocution are very high. This challenge is compounded by poor conditions of safety procedures like exit doors in cases of emergency. Most of the wind farms are just coming to terms with the safety measures on the occurrence of arc flashes at wind farms.
Similarly, Teschler (2011) observes that manufacturers of installation equipment produce equipment that does not meet the minimum safety standards as specified by IEEE and other regulation bodies to guarantee the safety of technicians working on wind turbines. Wind turbines therefore require proper training for technicians to be able to manage the numerous emergency incidents at wind turbines.
Consequences to Health and Property
Kardon(2011) argues that arc faults are the common cause of death of the wind turbine technicians. They can also cause body injury through arc flash burns. Most of the technicians who have managed to escape death from arc faults have ended up in hospital with severe burns. As a result, some have become completely incapacitated and thus interfering with the lives. Wind farms spent a lot of money attending to incidents of arc flash to cover for medical insurance of technicians besides replacing the equipments destroyed through arc fault. Similarly, Kardon(2011) further observes that cases of fire outbreak in the wind farms have been attributed to arc flashes. They can cause fire in wind farms that destroy properties.
Why Arc Flash is the Most Dangerous Hazard
Arc flashes have been identified as the most dangerous hazards that technicians at wind turbines are exposed to for several reasons. One is because they are almost like natural disasters that must happen and they happen frequently. Their severance has also been worsened by non-adherence to the minimum standards and use of poor equipment that does not meet the specific requirements as set out by regulation bodies. Additionally, since most of the companies managing wind farms are hell-bent for profits, they give little attention to the safety of technicians working on the wind turbines. Finally, arc flash has the potential of destroying a whole wind farm including all properties in the farm through fires that can be caused during fault current flow. Consequently, arc flash exposes technicians to permanent injuries through burns and other bodily harm.
It is therefore evidenced that technicians working on wind turbines are exposed to numerous dangerous jobs that pose health and safety threats to them. The paper identifies controlling fault currents as the most dangerous job at wind turbines. However, the paper also finds that the danger of arc flashes to technicians at wind turbines can be reduced through the use of better equipments and observation of safety standards as well as regular training of technicians on safety issues. This will require that the technicians working on the wind turbines use protective gears to prevent them from arc flashes during wind fluctuations that can cause metals to conduct more electricity than anticipated.