The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating a pair of injury-related incidents that occurred during the construction of the Ninnescah Wind Farm, located in Pratt County, Kan.
The 200 MW wind farm is being developed by NextEra Energy Resources. Avon, Minn.-based Blattner Energy is the general contractor on the project, which includes multiple sub-contractors. Both incidents resulted in serious injuries for construction workers.
According to an OSHA report, here’s what happened:
On July 6, a 26-year-old male employee of Blattner was struck in the head by a four-pound, 10-inch bolt while constructing a wind turbine at the site near Pratt. At the time he was struck, the worker was approximately 100 feet above the ground inside a turbine tower. The bolt fell from more than 100 feet above him, striking him in the head.
The man was knocked unconscious. Other workers in the vicinity were able to lower him to the ground, where he regained consciousness.
On July 3, a 41-year-old employee of Houston-based Wind Composite Services Group fell approximately 120 feet while conducting wind turbine maintenance. At the time of the accident, he and another co-worker were situated from a suspended work platform when it dropped. The co-worker was suspended by his lifeline and was able to lower himself down to the platform.
“The injured technician is in stable condition in the hospital,” Gary Kanaby, commercial manager, tells North American Windpower. “WindCom is currently supporting the family in Kansas, making sure he has the best available care and praying for his fast recovery.”
As for Blattner, “We are investigating the matter and supporting OSHA’s efforts,” says Ken Hilgert, business development director.
According to OSHA, the pending investigation will include the gathering of evidence, interviewing employees, and reviewing relevant company records and documents. Further, OSHA says it may issue citations and penalties if the agency finds violations of OSHA standards or law.
“Wind energy workers are exposed to many hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries, such as falls, struck by, electrical shocks and crushing injuries,” says Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita, Kan. “While wind energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique, and OSHA has many standards that cover these working conditions. Wind energy employers on this site and elsewhere need to evaluate their safety and health programs to ensure they are protecting their workers from workplace hazards.”