The number of jobs in the renewable energy or “green” fields of wind energy, solar, geo-thermal energy, biofuels, recycling, green roofing, hydrogen fuel cells, and weather insulating or sealing continues to rise each year. As more workers join these unique industries, awareness of the hazards at renewable energy construction work sites has become increasingly important.
Some common renewable energy construction hazards involve falls, electrical issues, and exposure to toxic materials. Other risks involve confined spaces, crane safety, and fire hazards.
Fall accidents that occur on renewable energy construction sites can be particularly serious, due to the unique nature of the construction. Workers constructing wind turbines or installing solar energy panels frequently work at extreme heights and are particularly vulnerable to falls. Faulty scaffolding, improper ladder or crane use, lack of fall protection for rooftop work, and failure to use protective gear can result in fatal falls on construction sites.
Of the total number of worker fatalities in the solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass electric power generation industries, between 2012-2016, 80% were attributed to falls.
Electrical issues, such as mishaps related to the unexpected energization and machinery startup, or faulty electric power transmission and distribution, are other types of renewable energy construction hazards faced by green industry workers.
Unguarded moving electrical parts and exposed electrical components can cause significant injuries to workers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth lockout/tagout standards to address these potential electrical hazards.
In addition to risks experienced by all construction industry workers, workers dealing with renewable energy construction materials may face additional safety risks. Some safety experts fear workers may be exposed to unknown toxic exposure risks as new technologies are developed. Solar energy industry workers frequently work with cadmium telluride, a known carcinogen, which must be properly controlled to limit exposure.
For many workers in a green industry, the location of the jobsite itself can pose a significant problem. With many renewable energy construction sites in remote locations, there is limited access to the site should an accident take place.
Workers may have to wait hours for any type of first aid or medical assistance. Emergency responders may face significant obstacles in providing needed assistance to injured workers, including unreliable communication networks and environment factors such as bad weather and wildlife.
Many professional organizations, including the American Society of Safety Professionals and the American National Standards Institute, are working with the renewable energy industry to create standards and safety protocols to minimize the risks associated with these hazards.
Most recently, a standard addressing the construction and demolition of wind turbines has established minimum requirements for protecting workers. This includes required accident prevention training, site hazard identification, and the creation of site specific safety plans for remote construction locations.
OSHA strongly recommends green industries implement the Prevention through Design (PtD) strategy, which emphasizes the design of construction equipment and processes in such a way as to eliminate hazards to workers. Design engineers should work with safety and health professionals to “design out” hazards before final completion of the product design.
Philadelphia Construction Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Workers in the Renewable Energy Industry
If you have been injured in a green construction accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The experienced Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help you with all aspects of your legal case. Call us today at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.