What are the common concerns that affect height safety in wind turbines?
Johnny Watson. The obvious but much overlooked answer is to avoid the risk of falls from height altogether. Where it is impossible to bring work down to ground level and some element of climbing or assent is involved, the main concerns are fall prevention, rescue, evacuation, climb assistance and simplicity of use.
The confined space and tall structure of a wind turbine creates a unique set of hazards for accessing and evacuating safely. Where lifts are fitted, the ability to evacuate casualties is often compromised by the presence of the lift. Additionally, the height of the structure means that lowering whilst monitoring a casualty is often difficult and ladder climbing causes long-term occupational health issues where climb assist systems are not employed.
Rescue is a number one concern. If an accident does occur or a medical emergency is encountered, how can a casualty be quickly and safely evacuated? Whatever system is employed to keep people safe at height, it should be as simple as possible to operate. Complex systems add to the operator risk, and even small falls and slips can result in significant injuries. By preventing a fall rather than arresting it, this type of injury can be reduced.
How do you provide cost-effective safety standards to the wind energy industry?
JW. At Limpet Technology, we do this by employing a best-of-breed system that incorporates the fall prevention, simple mode of operation, rescue and evacuation functionality mentioned above, all in a single intuitive device. The Limpet is the world's first height safety system to seamlessly combine such functionality in this way.
What are the differing challenges between onshore and offshore wind farm safety?
JW. The major difference is the relative remoteness of an offshore turbine. In both onshore and offshore wind there is a need for best possible safety practices, but in the offshore environment it is even more critical that systems allow users to be wholly self sufficient if necessary and carry out effective rescues without external assistance.
Due to the dangerous nature of delivering personnel to the offshore site, it is imperative that the installed equipment is 100 percent reliable. When personnel arrive they need to be able to depend on the safety equipment working.
One of the most hazardous parts of offshore turbine maintenance is the transfer between boat and turbine. The Limpet makes this much safer. Being able to monitor personnel and safety systems remotely through a turbine's SCADA system is a real safety benefit. Only the Limpet offers this functionality.
How is wind energy expanding and what is needed to cope with the increasing demand?
JW. Predictions range between 75,000 and 100,000 new turbines per year between now and 2020 worldwide. The biggest hurdle in coping with this demand will be training personnel capable of installing and maintaining this. This will be dictated chiefly by the industry's ability to develop and implement safety systems to deliver these people to their workplace and relieve the strains and occupational health hazards that they will be subjected to.
Johnny Watson is Managing Director of Limpet Technology and manufacturer of the Limpet, the world's first integrated height safety system.
For more information, visit www.limpettechnology.com.