Fall protection in the wind energy sector

Wind power is one of the most promising and sustainable sources of renewable energy, capable of meeting our society's growing energy needs. Wind turbines, also known as aero-engines, provide clean electricity, and are one of the main contributors to the global fight against climate change. However, maintenance and repair operations involve working at height, exposing operators to a high fall risk (potentially lethal). That's why fall protection equipment plays a crucial role in ensuring their safe interventions.

Wind power in France

wind power in France

Wind energy in France is becoming an increasingly important part of the country's energy growth in terms of green energies. It is an integral part of France's efforts to promote renewable energy sources and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. It is a key player in electricity production in France.

According to EDF, in 2019, renewable energies represented 20.2% of the energy produced in the country. This sector therefore represents the second largest renewable energy source, with 34.1 TWh (terwatt-hours), just behind hydraulic energy. This figure should continue to rise as new wind farm projects are developed and as awareness of the importance of climate change grows.

It is also likely that these generators will play an increasingly important role in France, as the French government aims to promote this type of energy. It has therefore introduced various support policies to promote this type of energy. These involve guaranteed feed-in tariffs for wind-generated electricity, bid calls for project development, as well as tax incentives and subsidies for developers.

Wind farms are mainly located in regions with suitable conditions, in other words areas with regular winds that are strong enough to generate electricity efficiently. Coastal regions and mountainous areas often offer favourable criteria for the construction of wind farms. There are both land-based (onshore) and sea-based (offshore) wind farms.

Characteristics of onshore wind turbines :

  • Power: between 1.8 and 3 MW (megawatts)
  • Height: between 120 and 155 m

Characteristics of an offshore wind turbine :

  • Power: approximately 15 MW
  • Height: 157 m above sea level

parc éolien

Fall protection equipment for wind turbines

Work on wind turbines often involves considerable heights, where even a fall of a few metres can result in serious injury or death. The use of fall protection systems such as safety harnesses, lifelines and restraint systems considerably reduces the risk of fatal accidents. In case of slipping or loss of balance, this equipment restrains operators and prevents a free fall. Safety harnesses are essential PPE for work at height, such as on wind turbines. There are also self-retracting reels (also known as " fall stop ").

Compliance with safety standards

The wind energy industries are subject to strict safety regulations, particularly those relating to working at height. Fall protection equipment represents an essential regulatory requirement, as it plays a key role in complying with current safety standards. By investing in this equipment, companies in the sector are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the lives of their employees.

Workers' safety is an essential aspect of the industry's overall image. By implementing rigorous safety protocols and providing adequate protective equipment, the industry reinforces its reputation as a responsible player that cares about the well-being of its workers. This can also help to attract skilled and committed talent.

Safety standards for work on wind turbines are defined to prevent accidents, minimise risks to workers' health and ensure a safe working environment. These standards are often set by national or international regulatory authorities and are based on extensive research and industry best practice. Here are some specific aspects of safety standards relating to fall protection in the wind energy sector:

The regulations require the equipment used to be certified in accordance with current rules and regulations. This includes safety harnesses, lifelines, energy absorbers and connectors. This equipment must be regularly inspected, maintained and replaced if necessary. The standards for safety harnesses are as follows: EN 361 (PPE against falls from a height: fall arrest harnesses), EN 358 (PPE for work positioning and prevention of falls from a height: support and restraint belts and support lanyards), EN 813 (PPE for prevention of falls from a height in suspension: sit harnesses), EN 1497 (PPE against falls from a height with rescue buckles: rescue harnesses).
Numerous other regulations need to be taken into account, such as standards relating to connecting, energy absorption and anchoring systems (EN 353-1, 353-2, 354, 355, 360, 362, 795).

Workers doing work at height must also be properly trained in the correct use of fall protection equipment, safety procedures specific to wind turbines and fall prevention. It is imperative that they are certified as competent to carry out these tasks. It is important to be able to assess potential risks and to know how to handle a dangerous situation correctly.  

wind turbines workers

The regulations specify the requirements for the design and installation of fall protection systems. These include the identification of appropriate anchorage points, the strength of the materials used and the configuration of lifelines to ensure effective protection.

The equipment used must be checked regularly to ensure maximum safety for these employees.

In today's booming wind energy sector, worker safety must be an absolute priority, and fall protection equipment plays a vital role in protecting employees when they are working on infrastructure at considerable heights. By investing in safety, the wind energy industry is demonstrating its commitment to its workers and helping to shape a safer, more sustainable energy future.