Challenges of Working at Heights In Alternative Energy Sectors

at height structures fall arrest fall protection equipment fall protection safety expert safety helmets working at heights

The alternative energy sectors are experiencing significant growth, thanks to the world’s increasing inclination towards sustainability. With this growth comes a rising demand for workers to build and maintain various renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal plants.
Establishing and maintaining such systems involve working at considerable heights, posing numerous safety challenges for these industry workers.

Working at heights in alternative energy sectors.

The Risk of Falling from Working-At-Height Structures

Renewable energy systems often feature structures elevated to significant heights. Building and maintaining these structures can pose fall hazards for work-at-height workers.

Wind Energy
Wind turbines are the primary at-height structure in a wind energy system. They support blades and nacelle and can be as tall as 100 metres or more. This is because the wind blows the strongest high above the ground.

Setting up a wind energy plant also involves working with meteorological towers. They determine the optimal location and height for installing wind turbines by measuring wind speed, direction, humidity, and temperature. They may not be as tall as wind turbines, but they are still high enough to cause injuries or even deaths.  Moreover, workers often have to use cranes and other specialised work-at-height equipment to assemble, install, and access the components of wind energy structures.

Solar Energy
Solar panels are installed on roofs or other elevated structures. A solar energy system encompasses inverters and electrical switchgear that may be elevated several metres above the ground. Moreover, it includes transmission towers to transmit power from the panels to the electrical grid.

Workers may have to use ladders and work platforms to access rooftops and install, maintain, or repair solar panels and other components of the entire system. 

Geothermal Plants
Workers at a potential geothermal site may have to set up high drilling towers to access the geothermal reservoir. This means they may be exposed to fall hazards while working near deep excavations, pits, and trenches dug for installing the pipelines.

Falls can occur when installing, inspecting, or repairing tall structures included in the power generation system at a biomass plant, like cooling towers, heat exchangers, and steam turbine generators.

Ladders, platforms, scaffoldings, and aerial lifts used to access the work-at-height structures at geothermal plants also pose a falling risk for workers.

Biomass Plants
Biomass plants use boiler rooms to turn water into steam. These boiler rooms are huge and may require workers to access work-at-height structures for inspection and maintenance, including the boiler roof, fans, and heat exchangers.

A biomass storage silo is another tall structure that requires workers to access heights for loading and unloading biomass fuel. The fuel feed system of a biomass plant also includes work-at-height components like valve stations and support structures.

Other tall structures at a biomass plant include cooling and transmission towers. Installation, maintenance, and inspection personnel use maintenance platforms, mobile lifts, ladders, and scaffoldings to access various work-at-height structures at a biomass plant. These platforms are significantly above the ground and require effective fall protection equipment and worker training.

Other Factors Contributing to Fall Hazards

Environmental and situational factors can further increase the risk of workers working-at-heights in the alternative energy sectors.

Poor Weather
Workers have a higher chance of slipping, tripping, and falling from heights when exposed to strong winds, rain, snow, or lighting.

Electrical Hazards
Workers in the alternative energy sectors dealing with high-voltage equipment when working-at-heights must be extra careful.

Equipment Failure
Fall protection equipment, like a safety harness or rope, or the equipment used to access at-height structures, like a ladder or scaffolding, may collapse if not properly secured or maintained.

Organizations in the Alternative Energy Sectors must provide workers with top-notch fall arrest and restraint equipment, like safety harnesses, ropes, and lanyards. Personal protective equipment like safety helmets, glasses, and appropriate shoes are also essential for worker safety.

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