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Safety issues must never be taken for granted

The potential for serious accidents in the wind industry should never be underestimated. Wind turbines are massive, potentially highly dangerous structures and in an industry that boasts an enviable safety record, it is as important now as ever to ensure that safety remains our watchword. PES looks into what is going on in the industry to ensure it maintains its enviable safety record …

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) recently signed a licensing agreement with Spanish company Ynfiniti Engineering Services (YES) and the UK-based Safety Technology, authorizing it as the first US training center to offer the globally-recognized YES/Safety Technology (YST) certification program for the wind energy industry. GRCC will now serve as the North American training hub for YST program instructors and the Great Lakes hub for individuals seeking certification. So what are the salient issues involved in safety for our growing industry and why is efficient regulation and certification so important?

“Wind farms present unique safety concerns for the individuals who work there,” said Steven Ender, GRCC’s President. “Some individuals will work in confined spaces that are hundreds of feet off the ground near extreme amounts of electricity while others tie themselves to the hub of the turbine and repel down the exterior of the tower in order to make safety checks or repairs. We’ll teach people the skills to do these activities safely.”

GRCC’s 80-hour certification program is due to start in May 2010. Students will learn fall about protection, OSHA rules regarding working in confined spaces and what they need to do to rescue themselves and others if they get in trouble on site. The certification is required by many wind farm developers, wind farm maintenance companies and insurance agencies that insure companies with individuals working on a wind farm site. GRCC expects 300 to 400 students to complete the safety program during its first year. A location for the training center – which will house training equipment that consists of scaffolding, lifts and simulations of the kinds of confined spaces found on wind farms – is to be finalized by GRCC in the coming weeks.


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