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After fatality, Siemens will defend safety procedures

Wind turbine maker Siemens Power Generation will try to convince Oregon regulators today that adequate safety measures were in place when a 230-foot tower collapsed and crashed to the ground in a Sherman County wheat field last summer. Technician Chadd Mitchell, who was working high in the nacelle, the structure that houses the turbine's generating components, died in the Aug. 25 incident at the Klondike III wind farm. Another technician, William Trossen, was injured. A third employee, Dustin Ervin, sitting in a truck nearby, gunned the engine to avoid the falling wreckage and escaped unharmed, according to a state report. ...Siemens hasn't refuted the sequence of events that led to the collapse, but it objects to the division's findings of safety violations. "The employees demonstrated they could do the work they were trained to do safely," Siemens spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said. "The actions that led to the incident were not actions that were related to the work they were performing." Siemens appealed the findings March 21.

Inquiry - The wind turbine maker talks to Oregon regulators today about a tower that fell

Wind turbine maker Siemens Power Generation will try to convince Oregon regulators today that adequate safety measures were in place when a 230-foot tower collapsed and crashed to the ground in a Sherman County wheat field last summer.

Technician Chadd Mitchell, who was working high in the nacelle, the structure that houses the turbine's generating components, died in the Aug. 25 incident at the Klondike III wind farm. Another technician, William Trossen, was injured. A third employee, Dustin Ervin, sitting in a truck nearby, gunned the engine to avoid the falling wreckage and escaped unharmed, according to a state report.

After a six-month investigation, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Siemens $10,500 for safety violations. The agency found that Siemens hadn't adequately trained or supervised the technicians on the job that Saturday. Mitchell and Trossen each had less than two months of experience and were working without a supervisor.

The state safety division also found that the procedures Siemens used to control and "lock out"... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Inquiry - The wind turbine maker talks to Oregon regulators today about a tower that fell

Wind turbine maker Siemens Power Generation will try to convince Oregon regulators today that adequate safety measures were in place when a 230-foot tower collapsed and crashed to the ground in a Sherman County wheat field last summer.

Technician Chadd Mitchell, who was working high in the nacelle, the structure that houses the turbine's generating components, died in the Aug. 25 incident at the Klondike III wind farm. Another technician, William Trossen, was injured. A third employee, Dustin Ervin, sitting in a truck nearby, gunned the engine to avoid the falling wreckage and escaped unharmed, according to a state report.

After a six-month investigation, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Siemens $10,500 for safety violations. The agency found that Siemens hadn't adequately trained or supervised the technicians on the job that Saturday. Mitchell and Trossen each had less than two months of experience and were working without a supervisor.

The state safety division also found that the procedures Siemens used to control and "lock out" equipment to prevent the blades from turning and generating electricity during maintenance failed to meet state requirements.

According to the findings, Mitchell entered the nose, or hub, of the nacelle after a lunch break and locked the blades flat to the wind -- a position of maximum wind resistance. He later released a service brake without disengaging the lockdown.

The blades began turning rapidly, the report said, "resulting in catastrophic failure and collapse of the turbine." One of the blades hit the tower, which buckled and collapsed.

Siemens hasn't refuted the sequence of events that led to the collapse, but it objects to the division's findings of safety violations.

"The employees demonstrated they could do the work they were trained to do safely," Siemens spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said. "The actions that led to the incident were not actions that were related to the work they were performing."

Siemens appealed the findings March 21. Siemens requested today's conference to give the company and regulators a chance to settle their differences. The meeting is closed to the media and the public.

If an agreement can't be reached, the case will be heard by an administrative law judge with the hearings division of the state Workers' Compensation Board.

Each year, the state safety division handles more than 600 informal conferences such as the one Siemens requested. Settlements are reached in more than 80 percent of the cases, said Melanie Mesaros, a division spokeswoman. "It's rare if they move on."

All four citations the division issued were classified as "serious."

Immediately after the incident, Siemens enhanced its training program; hired lead on-site technicians; revamped its maintenance computer software; and strengthened its lockout procedures. The response meant that Siemens complied with two of the four citations, although the fines still held, regulators said. Siemens hopes to discuss compliance with the remaining two citations at today's conference.

Siemens has hired the Portland law firm Ater Wynne to represent the company in the appeal.

An "abundance of caution" led to the additional safety protocols, Forbrick said. "We have analyzed this (incident) every which-way. We want to make sure, with hindsight, that it doesn't happen again."

Gail Kinsey Hill: 503-221-8590; gailhill@news.oregonian.com


Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/b...

APR 16 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/14469-after-fatality-siemens-will-defend-safety-procedures
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