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Siemens fined over death of wind turbine worker in Oregon

Siemens Power Generation Inc. has been fined more than $10,000 for safety violations in a wind turbine tower collapse that killed one worker and injured another.

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division said Tuesday it found no structural problems with the tower. The report did find multiple errors in Siemens’ system, training and procedures.

The incident occurred in August at Klondike III Wind Farm near Wasco, where three wind technicians were performing maintenance on a wind turbine tower.

According to the agency, workers had halted the blades for safety, and one worker entered the hub of the turbine. That worker then changed the blade position and closed the blades’ energy isolation devices, which are designed to control mechanisms that handle blade pitch so workers don’t get injured while in the hub.

Before leaving the hub, the worker did not put the energy devices back into the operational position, the agency said. So when the blades were turned back on, the blades were in an “overspeed” position that caused a blade to strike the tower and the tower to collapse, it said.

“This tragedy was the result of a system that allowed the operator to restart the turbine after service while the blades were locked in a hazardous position,” said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. “Siemens has made changes to the tower’s engineering controls to ensure it does not happen again.”

The investigation also found workers were not properly instructed and supervised in safe operations, the technicians each had less than two months’ work experience and there was no supervisor on site. The agency says the workers were unaware of the potential for such a failure.

Other safety violations included improper company procedures and failure to train employees in emergency rescue procedures.

Siemens spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said the company has made some changes, is reviewing the report and will make additional changes as needed. She said the company has brought in experts inside and outside the company to review the case.

“Obviously we take that event very seriously,” Forbrick said. “We are trying to make measures above and beyond (those) required to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

German-owned Siemens Power Generation has 30 days to appeal the citation.

The farm is owned by PPM Energy, but Siemens was doing an inspection service of the turbine. The workers involved included one contractor and two Siemens employees.

By Sarah Skidmore

The Associated Press


26 February 2008