A Minnesota-based wind farm servicing company is contesting six willful safety violations that resulted from an incident at the Iberdola Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm near Odell Oct. 20.
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration handed the citations to Outland Renewable Services in April. The proposed fines for the citations total $378,000.
A wind farm technician reportedly experienced severe burns from an electrical arc flash during the incident.
“They’ve contested the citations, so they’ll be preparing their position and we’ll prepare our position and ultimately it will end up in trial,” Tom Bielema, area director at the OSHA office in Peoria, told The Times.
Outland Renewable Services was cited for exposing maintenance technicians to electrical hazards from the unexpected energization of transformers in three wind turbine towers. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
“Outland had a positive informal conference with OSHA on April 27 in Illinois,” President and COO Steve Scott said in a statement to The Times. “We’re continuing the dialogue with them and are hopeful we’ll be able to reach a mutually-agreeable resolution rather than later.”
On the day of the incident, OSHA said Outland Renewable Services failed to ensure technicians working in wind farm towers affixed their own energy isolation devices – also known as personal lock-and-tag devices – on the tower turbine switch gear at ground level. That created the possibility for other workers to energize transformers in the turbine towers, upon which technicians were working at a distance of approximately 350 feet above ground. The injured worker suffered third-degree burns to his neck, chest and arms, and second degree burns to the face as a result of an arc flash that occurred when a transformer was unexpectedly energized by another worker.
The violations fall under the requirements of OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Initiated in the spring of 2010, the program is intended to focus on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe; industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards; exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals; and all per-instance citation (egregious) enforcement actions.
Outland Renewable Services’ corporate offices are in Canby, Minn. This OSHA inspection was the first conducted at the Iberdrola Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm.
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