Elevating wind turbine lift maintenance

Could smart tracking systems give wind turbine elevator maintenance a lift? This might seem like a trivial question, but it’s not. Lift availability is an important health and safety topic for the wind industry. And on reflection, it’s hardly surprising.

In 2015, according to the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average hub height for offshore wind turbines was around 90 metres, which is about as tall as the Statue of Liberty (or a bit shorter than Big Ben, for readers this side of the pond).

As you can imagine, having to climb up stairs this height is an exhausting affair, particularly within the confines of a turbine tower. That is why turbine towers come equipped with lifts.

According to a G+ Global Offshore Wind report from March 2017, “lifts are ‘usually available’; however, where unavailability occurs it can have a dramatic impact upon work packages, and its effects can be chronic both for physical health and morale.”

Clearly, if a lift isn’t working then it would be pointless and possibly dangerous to try to use it. But lifts aren’t always unavailable because of a fault. G+ says: “Another common reason for unavailability is the lift being overdue for its statutory inspection.”

With the availability of platforms such as Papertrail, specifically designed to track inspections, it seems remarkable that wind farm operators could hamper productivity and compromise health and safety because of an inspection oversight.

And let’s be clear about the risks here. Says G+: “The impact of climbing activities on health, safety and well-being is considered to be significant, and effects can be direct or indirect. Direct effects include immediate and delayed musculoskeletal strain.

“Issues have included several older technicians suffering from knee muscle strain and pain and these effects have been reported on incident/injury forms.”

It is important to stress that offshore wind technicians work in environments where every care is usually taken to ensure health and safety.

In 2016, for example, there were only nine emergency response or medical evacuation incidents in the whole of the UK offshore sector. Everyone in the industry will be hoping to keep this level as low as possible.

All we are saying is that, in this day and age, missing lift inspections shouldn’t be a factor.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your renewable energy business safer and more efficient.

Shining a light on solar power safety

The wind industry is doing a great job of creating safe operating conditions in a frequently hostile and dangerous environment. There have been incidents, to be sure, but in general wind has a great safety record compared to other power sectors.

In part, this may be because it is hard to take safety for granted when you are working on a wind turbine. Up high above the ground, surrounded by moving parts, it makes sense to put safety first. Not all renewable energy workers operate in the face of such clear risks.

Take solar panel installers, for instance. Solar PV has got to be one of the safest forms of power generation you can imagine. It has no moving parts. It will not spill or burn. And if the sun isn’t shining it won’t even produce an electric current.

But that is not to say the sector is free from risk. In 2015, for example, a solar installer tragically died after falling through the roof of a barn in Preston, UK, while he was putting up panels.

His employer, Eco Generation, was fined £45,000 after it emerged the company had failed to provide vital safety equipment. “The court was told there were several measures Eco Generation could have taken to protect workers,” Installer Magazine reported.

As with many work-related incidents, it appears this was sadly a case of an accident that could have been avoided if the right safety culture had been in place.

There are many ways a business can improve safety, and one of the most basic, which will also help to improve business efficiency, is to have a smart tracking system in place so each technician goes to work with the right equipment, in the right condition.

The solar sector might seem like a low-risk industry, but as long as rooftops and high voltages are concerned it would pay to play it safe… and introduce the kinds of technologies that wind companies have been relying on for years.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your business a safer, more efficient place.

Welcome to the wind farm technician’s worst hour

It’s a pretty thankless task, saving the world. Those massive wind turbines turning far out to sea need careful nurturing as they fight global warming and bring down the cost of energy.

To look after these gigantic machines, technicians must rise with the first light and prepare meticulously for the day ahead.

Each technician travels many hours a day, from home to a distant port and then out into the vast ocean, enduring drizzle, cold and wind. Then they climb into the belly of an air-slicing monster and scale hundreds of feet into the grey North Sea sky.

There they must stay alert for the tiniest details, like the hairline crack that gives away a budding blade failure or the flicker on a boroscope that signals a gearbox in trouble.

The work must be done carefully but fast: fading light, changing tide, wind picking up, a storm front moving in, can all add to the pressure to work as quickly as possible.

Still, though, every observation must be meticulously noted down, because tomorrow another technician could be climbing these same rungs and looking for the same hairline crack. Then it’s back to the vessel and the long, cold trip back to port.

All the technician wants to do now is get home, to a warm supper. They can’t, though. Instead, they must go to the office and log every note, every incident, every update, into the system, so tomorrow’s crews know where to go and what to look for.

That final hour, cursing as numb fingers make mistakes and numb neurons search for details, is the offshore wind farm technician’s worst. But it need not be so.

With Papertrail, the nightmare hour ceases to exist, because everything they do can be logged as they work. A crack on a blade? Save the photo on Papertrail. A check that a safety hatch is in working order? Add it to Papertrail. A missing harness? Notify it on Papertrail.

Then, as soon as the technician comes within reach of a mobile or Wi-Fi network, the notes on their mobile device flow seamlessly onto the system. So the technician steps off the vessel, waves goodbye, and heads home to get a good night’s rest before the next day.

 Working in renewables? Find out more about how Papertrail can make your life easier.

How smart PPE management is helping training firms

It’s increasingly clear that smart personal protective equipment (PPE) management can help companies with workforces operating in challenging conditions. But what of the companies that train those workforces?

If you are a training company specialising in, say, working at height, then taking good care of your PPE is as important for you as it is for your clients. Perhaps more so, in fact, since you’re supposed to lead by example.

No small wonder, then, that training companies have been among those moving quickest to embrace smart PPE. Take XI Training , one of the leading working-at-height compliance specialists in the UK.

XI Training used to use Microsoft Excel and Ideagen Q-Pulse systems for document management and compliance reporting. But Barry McLeod, sales and marketing manager, says it was “proving to be extremely onerous due to the volume of kit.”

The company switched to Papertrail … and the results have been spectacular. For one client, with operations in Shetland, XI Training estimates the switch from manual to smart PPE systems may have cut down time and effort by 60%.

XI Training is also benefiting from easier audits and greater all-round efficiency. McLeod says Papertrail is “good for clients, good for XI Training and good for colleagues who enjoy using the platform.”

Nor is XI Training alone on this. Other training companies, from C2 Vertical Safety in Sweden to 5th Point in Australia, are using Papertrail to wave goodbye to lost administration time, errors and poor asset utilisation. What about you?

Meet the companies managing PPE in a smarter way

A+A logo

Safety should always be top of mind in the workplace. But the upcoming A+A international trade fair and congress is a good excuse to make sure your health and safety systems are all up to scratch and in line with the latest best practice.

The show is always a great way to learn about safety-enhancing products and to exchange tips with industry peers. And if you look after personal protective equipment (PPE), it’s not just new products you should be checking out.

Companies around the world are also benefiting from smarter PPE management systems, which can help cut costs while improving safety.

The Australian working-at-height training firm 5th Point, for example, uses Papertrail to overcome what it calls the “daunting prospect” of inspecting industrial rope access equipment.

5th Point relies on equipment provided by DMM, which offers Papertrail as its standard PPE management system for customers.

Using the system, “you’re looking at saving up to 90% of your administration time during an inspection,” says Robert Partridge, product manager, without having an impact on health and safety standards.

That is probably why it has been adopted by companies whose workers operate in some of the harshest conditions in the world.

Technicians at Offshore Painting Services, for instance, maintain wind turbines out in the North Sea and cannot afford to work with faulty PPE.

The company uses Papertrail to help safeguard the integrity of its equipment, and has yet to suffer a lost-time incident despite logging hundreds of thousands of on-site man-hours.

If that’s the kind of PPE safety record you would like for your company, then book a demo or join us at A+A in Düsseldorf, Germany, from October 17 to 20.

  • Visit Papertrail at A+A at the DMM (Hall 6/F40) and SingingRock (Hall 6/C48) stands.

The PPE industry gets serious about safety

If there is one motto you can’t argue with, it must be ‘safety first’. Even in the most foolhardy occupations, you would have to be really mad to ignore basic safety rules.

And when it comes to any industry with an element of risk, companies are fully aware of the need for caution. The problem is that until recently many of them may not have had all the tools to cater for that need.

Take companies that rely on personal protective equipment (PPE), for example. The reason PPE exists at all is to provide users with a measure of safety, yet for it to be effective it usually must be regularly inspected and declared fit for purpose.

Carrying out these inspections is one thing, but being able to quickly and easily find out if they have been done is another. It is a problem that has plagued companies that rely on PPE, for example for working at height. But it is a problem that is increasingly in the past.

Companies such as World Challenge, DMM Professional and Offshore Painting Services are modernising their inspection records processes so they can quickly locate any record or certification from anywhere, at any time.

And a recent white paper from Papertrail predicts a continuing shift towards smart PPE management systems that help organisations improve safety while at the same time cutting costs and administration overheads.

“Users of the Papertrail smart PPE management system have reported more than a 90% reduction in administration workload, along with reduced human error and increased equipment use,” says the paper.

“Furthermore, such smart systems are expected to grow in value over time, as they increasingly evolve to receive and manage status data from future generations of connected PPE devices linked to the rise of the Internet of Things.”

The extent to which PPE record keeping is being modernised, to further increase safety while boosting efficiency, is expected to be a matter of debate in Düsseldorf, Germany, at the A+A international trade fair and congress from October 17 to 20.

The world’s largest international trade forum for safety, security and health at work, A+A’s programme will cover everything from workplace design to occupational fire protection.

In all areas, attendees will be looking for evidence of advances that can help improve the safety of their people and their customers. Thanks to advances in records management, PPE shouldn’t let them down.

Visit Papertrail at A+A at the DMM (Hall 6/F40) and SingingRock (Hall 6/C48) stands

The £50,000 gift a PPE manufacturer gave its customers

If you work in a large business you probably know how important it is to keep your corporate customers happy. And how difficult it can be sometimes to do something that really matters.

At least one personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer has hit the right note, though, with an idea that makes life easier for its top clients… and at the same time saves them up to £50,000 a year.

That is roughly the value of the administration time invested every year by DMM’s biggest customers when they had to keep track of all their PPE by hand.

As a maker of premium products, DMM knew that wasn’t good enough, particularly when some of its larger customers were placing orders for more than 10,000 items a year. That’s why DMM decided to add RFID tag scanning to its products in 2014.

The DMM iD tagging scheme made it a lot easier for customers to log product data, for example for inspection purposes.

But Robert Partridge, DMM’s product manager, knew the icing on the cake would be to also provide a software system that could store all that information. This was not a task for DMM, though.

Partridge had seen other hardware manufacturers try and fail when it came to developing software to go with their products. It just wasn’t a core skill, which meant the results would be costly and possibly sub-standard. Fortunately, Partridge knew where to look for help.

At the time, DMM was sharing a business park with Papertrail. The two companies started talking, and Papertrail’s technical experts set about integrating the Papertrail platform with DMM’s back-office systems.

The upshot is that now a customer who scans a DMM product serial number can quickly and easily import the product details to their Papertrail account, at no additional cost.

Partridge estimates this could ultimately save up to 90% of the administration time involved in an inspection, and some of DMM’s customers have already halved the time they need for inspections every year.

Besides saving time and money on inspections, the customers are using their PPE for longer. Before, many would simply throw the equipment away when it was due for inspection, because it was cheaper to buy new items than to spend time on checks.

Now they are saving on new purchase costs without having an impact on health and safety standards… which is plenty of reason for customers to feel happy about choosing DMM.

  • To find out more about the DMM story, read the case study

Checking on your lone workers? What about their kit?

Looking after lone workers is a big responsibility. If you have an employee, such as a security guard or night watchman, who is on their own for long stretches of time then you need to make sure they can get help if they are in trouble.

This need has spawned a small technology industry addressing the fact that many lone workers, of which there are about 4 million in the UK alone, may not be able to able to use their mobile phones to call for help in the event of a problem.

In the UK, for example, SoloProtect supplies a device called the Identicom that provides personal safety features along with identity badge functionality for organisations such as the National Health Service.

If a health worker is in a potentially confrontational situation with no other staff around, by discretely pressing their identity card they can activate a hotline to an alarm receiving centre where an agent will record what is going on and send help if needed.

German firm LIV tec goes a step further with a gadget that will broadcast a user’s location if the bearer stops moving for a suspiciously long amount of time.

Such technologies can bring help to someone in trouble at a remote location, but they cannot prevent people from getting into trouble in the first place.

For that, you need to make sure that the equipment a worker is relying on does not cause an accident… and can be fully relied upon if it is needed.

An intruder alarm that fails to work, a fire door that will not open or a flare that will not ignite are all examples of equipment problems that can be challenging in any situation, but are potentially much worse when you have nobody around for backup.

And if you are equipping your lone workers with some form of alarm-giving device, you need to make sure the technology itself works whenever it is needed.

Thus the only way to really keep your lone workers as safe as possible is to make sure the items they may have to rely on are checked regularly, and any defects are logged in a way that is easy to see and assists with quick remediation.

Doing this is easy with a system such as Papertrail, which can help you schedule inspections at regular intervals and check that each inspection has been carried out. Don’t let your people leave without having it in place.

How to be your health and safety inspector’s best friend

tree-surgery

We’ve all seen the image of the person sawing off the branch they are sitting on.

And if you do an Internet search for ‘health and safety nightmares’ then you’ll find plenty of examples of madcap activities that seem to defy common sense… and certainly wouldn’t go down well with a health and safety (H&S) inspector.

There’s the construction plant operators playing football with diggers, for example. Or the worker using a colleague’s back as a bench for a circular saw. It’s easy to dismiss such far-out incidents as having little bearing on your own, safety-conscious operations.

On the flip side, it’s also easy to see H&S inspections as a chore, to be avoided at all costs. And there’s no doubt that passing an inspection can be a harrowing process, particularly since inspectors in most jurisdictions could potentially shut down your business.

The problem with this mentality is that a disdain for inspections may lead to a disdain for health and safety itself. And that could have serious consequences for your organisation.

Far better, then, to take the opposite view… and think about how you could become an inspector’s best friend by making their visit quick and painless.

The first and most obvious step in this process is obviously to make safety a priority and check for any potential hazards that need to be addressed.

Having a workplace that is visibly free of hazards probably goes about 95% of the way towards dispelling any concerns your inspector might have. But you may still need to deal with the lingering doubt that you’ve simply tidied everything up the day before the visit.

For this, you need to have documentation that proves your long-term commitment to safety.

As a retired warehouse inspector remembers: “I would always ask to see evidence of the most recent racking inspection, just to see when they last had their system independently checked in addition to the internal safety checks I would expect them to carry out.”

Having this information to hand is important, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that the way you present it can matter, too. A mass of crumpled inspection reports, dug out from a musty drawer, is hardly going to instill confidence in your safety regime.

On the other hand, being able to access reports online, in a way that is easy to scan and analyse, will go a long way towards showing safety isn’t something you just polish up for an inspector’s visit.

Equipment Management for Rope Access Technicians

Rope access techniques

Industrial rope access has proven to be a safe, efficient and cost-effective. Common rope access techniques include inspection, surveying, maintenance on buildings, towers, bridges, dams, wind turbines and more. Rope access equipment consists of ropes, helmets, harnesses, carabiners, ascenders, and descenders.  

Safety should always be of paramount concern for those using rope access techniques, with the awareness of the following legislations that are necessary for equipment managers and contractors:

What can go wrong?

Although rope access techniques is one of the safest ways to carry out high access maintenance and repairs in the industry, things can still go wrong. Risks could include falls from height due to poor technique, equipment or anchor failure; struck by falling items resulting in fatality or injury to the user; rope burns; and stuck at height.  

Prevention is better than cure

When using rope access techniques, the main objective is to carry out work efficiently, with minimal accidents, incidents or dangerous occurrences. It is important to asses the risks accurately when using any equipment to ensure it meets safety standards, is properly stored, inspected and maintained. It is also essential that the equipment complies with the international standards and equipment users are trained to use it safely. Any work carried out should be supervised to check users are working safely. 

Training Systems 

Training is a continuous process for rope access technicians it keeps them up to speed on current legislation. IRATA and SPRAT have published guidelines to integrate with on-site safety management systems. 

The International Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) is responsible for regulating the training of all workers looking to earn qualifications in the industry. IRATA certifications are available in three different levels and are required for all working rope access technicians. Read more about IRATA Certifications and what is required here

The Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) certification provides instant recognition and credibility to those who carry it. SPRAT encourages the safe use of rope access through education, standards development and certification. SPRAT is also available in three levels available, more information about becoming SPRAT certified can be found here.

Rope Access Program

Based on IRATA and SPRAT guidelines, a safe rope access program should be designed around these four key components:

  1. Management systems
  2. Training systems
  3. Equipment management systems
  4. Qualified supervisors

Equipment Management Systems 

When it comes to the lives of rope access technicians, they are in the hands of the equipment they use. Equipment managers are responsible for maintenance and testing, with each piece of equipment given a unique identifier and inspected before used on a job. Using Papertrail, equipment managers can use RFID or barcode technology to easily identify equipment, create secure and fully auditable inspections in seconds – simply scan and go! 

If your current equipment management system is not working efficiently and you think can be improved. Download our 5 Step Management System Review Workbook, created for equipment managers to ensure your PPE management system is effective.