Wind energy is one of the occupations that is categorized as a green job. Permit-required confined spaces can be encountered in the manufacture of equipment for wind energy. Care must be taken by employers to ensure that safety issues are considered for workers employed in this occupation.
A confined space can be defined as one that is not large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work, is not designed for continuous occupancy by and employee, and has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit. Additionally, there are areas which are designated as permit-required confined spaces and require additional safety precautions to prevent confined space hazards. These are spaces that may have low oxygen environments, or accumulations of hazardous gases.
To determine whether a confined workspace can be classified as permit-required confined spaces (PRCS), they have to have one or more of the following characteristics:
• Contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
• Contain materials with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space
• Have internal configurations that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section
• Contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazards
Employers are required to develop a written program of permit-required confined spaces. The program must provide steps to be taken to make the spaces safe for entry. That program must be available for inspection by employees and their authorized representatives.
Wind turbines consist of four main elements: towers, blades, nacelles, and hubs. The nacelle contains the rotor gearbox and the generator for the turbine. In some maintenance activities inside a nacelle, workers may be exposed to hazards from electrical motors, gears, etc., which may classify them as permit-required confined spaces. Technicians who will be working a nacelle should perform air sampling before the entering to determine if there may be low oxygen levels or hazardous gases. For this reason, technicians should always carry portable gas monitors and make sure they are properly maintained.
More detailed information on the standards regarding working on confined spaces can visit Confined Spaces on the OSHA website.