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Company appeals fine for fatal tower fall  

State orders Siemens to pay $10,500 for wind turbine collapse

A wind turbine manufacturer has appealed the $10,500 fine the state of Oregon issued for safety violations related to an Aug. 25, 2007, wind turbine tower collapse that killed one worker and injured another.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division – Oregon OSHA – fined Germany-based Siemens Power Generation Feb. 26 after finding several safety violations related to the death and injury.

The East Oregonian sent an e-mail Wednesday morning to a spokesperson for Siemens Power Generation, asking if the company had any comments about the fine, what is the company’s safety record and, what, if anything, has Siemens Power Generation done for the injured man and any family of the dead worker.

So far, the EO hasn’t received a reply.

Oregon OSHA investigated the incident, which occurred at the Klondike III Wind Farm near Wasco in Sherman County, where three wind technicians were performing maintenance on a wind turbine tower.

Oregon OSHA’s report said a worker had set a service brake that kept the turbine’s blade stationary. He then positioned the three blades to the maximum wind resistance position and closed the mechanism that directs the blade pitch so that workers don’t get injured while they are working in the hub.

However, the worker didn’t return that mechanism to the operational position. Thus when he released the brake one of the blades struck the tower, causing it to collapse, the Oregon OSHA investigation found.

Chadd Mitchell, 35, of Goldendale, Wash., had been working at the top of the tower when it collapsed. He died in accident. William Trossen of Minnesota was on his way down a ladder in the tower when it collapsed. The incident broke his thumb.

The third worker was outside the tower and unharmed.

Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator, said the investigation found no structural problems with the tower.

“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,” Wood said in a news release. “Siemens has made changes to the tower’s engineering controls to ensure it does not happen again.”

Oregon OSHA, a division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules.

The turbine towers themselves are about 263 feet tall, but the blades push that to about 400 feet. According to the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group that tracks wind-farm development, this was the first time someone died in a wind tower collapse in the United States.

The East Oregonian

4 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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