China maintains poor wind safety record

WORLDWIDE: The Chinese wind industry's dubious health and safety (H&S) record continued last year, with eight deaths out of a global total of 12. In 2011, eight out of 11 workplace deaths occurred in China.

In February 2012, two engineers were killed in a fire at a Huaneng Renewables wind turbine in Inner Mongolia. The turbine was made by China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock (CSR).

In March, five people were killed and four injured when a steel platform collapsed at a Jingye Bearing offshore bearing factory site in Jiangsu province. Then in September, one person was killed and three injured when a Ming Yang 1.5MW wind turbine collapsed in north-west China's Xinjiang province.

China generally has less of an established H&S culture, making it harder to get workers to adhere to standards, said Jon Cowlan, senior manager for H&S at international law firm Pinsent Masons. But despite China's poor reputation, its centralised government is seen as pushing hard to improve the country's standing in terms of serious workplace accidents.

Accidents outside China include two at offshore projects in the North Sea. In January, a rope access technician was killed at the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 when a component fell and pulled him under water.

And in May, a British diver suffered a heart attack at Germany's Alpha Ventus project.

The offshore wind sector is dangerous in part because it is on such a fast learning curve, said Cowlan. The technology is changing rapidly, he said, and the industry is learning as it goes. Deadlines can be tight, especially during good weather.

Between 2006 and 2010, there were a total of 16 workplace deaths in Europe and North America, or 0.12/GW, a far lower rate per installed gigawatt than the 7.27/GW at the dawn of the wind industry in the 1980s.

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