Siemens Wind Power Ltd. has pleaded guilty and has been fined C$60,000 as the result of a 2015 incident in which a worker fell from a weigh scale and was struck by a moving loader at a blade manufacturing plant.
The company, formerly operating as Siemens Canada Ltd., manufactures wind turbine blades at a plant in Tillsonburg, Ontario.
According to a court bulletin from Ontario’s Ministry of Labor, on July 13, 2015, a worker at the plant was injured after falling from a turbine blade that was situated on a weigh scale. The blade had been lifted onto the weigh scale by means of a loader equipped with a c-clamp.
The c-clamp had been hooked to the blade, and the loader lifted the blade onto the weigh scale. Once the weighing had been done, the worker attempted to unhook the c-clamp by climbing up inside the hollow blade while balancing on the perimeter rim into which the hook is placed. This method was used because a ladder would not fit between the loader and the weigh scale, according to the ministry.
In turn, the worker lost balance and fell approximately six feet to the floor. At that point, the loader operator got out of the loader to help the worker and did not realize the machine was still in gear. The loader rolled forward and struck the fallen worker, who suffered multiple injuries as a result, the bulletin says.
According to the ministry, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. However, the ministry says Siemens Wind Power failed to take the reasonable precaution of providing a work platform or other surface from which a worker could work while attaching or unhooking a c-clamp from the root end of wind turbine blades. This is contrary to section 25(2)(h) and to section 66(1) of the act.
A fine of C$60,000 was imposed by Justice of the Peace Michael A. Cuthbertson in Woodstock court on June 16. The court also imposed a 25% victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
In a statement, Siemens Wind Power Ltd., which is now owned by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, says it “deeply regrets the incident” and has taken action by “implementing special equipment in the plant that now allows the employee to mechanically unhook the c-clamp while standing on the floor, thereby removing the need to ascend onto any platform to perform this task.” The solution has now been deployed at all of its wind factories globally, the company says.
“We fully cooperated with the Ministry of Labor’s investigation into this incident, and we understand and accept the responsibility we have toward our employees,” Siemens Wind Power says, adding that the employee has returned to work since the incident.