What should wind technicians know about fall-protection equipment?

This article is part of the 2017 Renewable Energy Handbook. A complete digital version of the Handbook is here: https://goo.gl/Sg4mHO

In a nutshell, nearly everything. Wind techs should also know that, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), falls are the leading cause of fatalities at construction sites in the United States, accounting for about one-third of all incidences in the industry. Workers at heights of six feet or greater must have safeguards in place to protect them from the risk of falling.

3M’s Personal Safety Division recently launched Safety Now & Next, a new online resource on worker health and safety, including information on fall-protection equipment, safety regulations and compliance, and training and education. Learn more at http://workersafety.3m.com.

The most effective way to ensure safety is through proper equipment use and training.

“Good training is about meeting the specific needs of workers based on the type of work they’ll perform,” says John Eckel, Sr. Technical Training Specialist at Miller Fall Protection. He adds that a properly trained worker understands the basics of the job, such as how to properly employ fall-protection equipment, climb a wind tower, and work inside of a nacelle.

To safely and effectively work at heights, wind technicians must identify existing and potential hazards on the job and have the authority to take corrective actions when necessary. Technicians should be trained by a Competent Person Trainer as established under ANSI Z359.2, and meet the authorized rescuer level under ANSI Z359.2. ANSI refers to the American National Standards Institute, which provides performance standards for fall protection in the U.S. The organization also requires workers to return every two years for refresher training.

Wind technicians should also keep apprised of what’s new and available in fall-protection equipment, including how to inspect all safety gear, use the hardware, and don a harness correctly. “Often the biggest mistake made is the size of the harness, which doesn’t match the student’s torso. But workers must also understand how to use the different anchors and connecting devices, and know where they’re located on a turbine at each different job site,” says Eckel.

The DBI-SALA ExoFit STRATA is the first full-body safety harness designed and tested with data-driven third-party research to ensure user comfort and safety for workers at height.

Craig Firl, Technical Manager at 3M Fall Protection agrees. He says compliance to the applicable standards is critical (OSHA and ANSI both apply in the U.S.), and that equipment must also fit its intended application. “It is important to understand how and where the equipment is going to be used. For example, on full-body harnesses determine what type of comfort level is desired, and where you need connection points – at the waist, front, or dorsal? Do you need a seat sling or tool pouch? Do you have concerns about arc flash or potential damage from high heat?” These are important questions to ask when selecting the correct product for the application.

Over the past few years, fall-protection equipment has developed significantly, particularly in terms of comfort and available features. Many full-body harnesses are now equipped with more padding and extra support, so wind technicians can comfortably wear them for longer periods of time. The material of products has also become lighter without compromising strength and durability.

Fall-protection equipment has also made technological advancements, with many types of connecting systems capable of handling increased fall distances and higher capacities,” says Firl, who also points out that ANSI has produced new standards on harnesses and self-retracting lifelines, meaning the equipment is safer.

When caring for fall-protection gear, Firl recommends storing products in a cool, dry area, and out of direct sunlight to keep them in proper working condition. Most manufacturers will provide direction on storing and inspection steps in the instruction manuals. “Regardless, equipment should be inspected before each use and formally examined by a qualified inspector at least once a year,” says Firl.

This section written by Emily Wild, WPE&D research assistant


Windpower Engineering & Development