For years, the wind giant has exposed employees to hazardous chemicals. It is a workplace scandal according to a leading expert on work environments.
Employees at Siemens Wind Power in Denmark have reported complaints of chronic illness from manufacturing wind turbines.
In the last 10 years, at least 64 cases have been confirmed of employees becoming ill from exposure to hazardous chemicals in their job at the turbine facility.
Illnesses range from asthma to eczema according to reports made available to DR News.
"In my opinion, this is a workplace scandal because there are so many sick, and because it has been going on for so many years," says Peter Hasle, professor of occupational health at Aalborg University.
Three experts working on the matter agree that 64 cases of chemical damage is a high number, even for a company with as many employees as Siemens Wind Power.
"It's shockingly high and very serious. When an employee becomes ill from these substances, the ailment can persist for the rest of their life," says Hans Jørgen Limborg, worker environmental scientist and manager of the company Team Working.
"It is quite unusual that something like this could take place in 2016," according to Jeanne Duus, professor of medicine and director of the Centre for Allergy.
At the top of the pyramid
According to reports filed in the 64 workers' compensation cases, the illnesses can be attributed to the epoxy and isocyanates used in manufacturing the turbines.
These materials are at the top of the pyramid of allergenic substances. Isocyanates are also on the EU list of substances that can cause cancer.
The Environment Act mandates that employees be protected from these dangerous chemicals when coming in contact with their skin or inhaling vapors.
But according to workplace environment experts, Siemens Wind Power has not taken the necessary precautions to protect its workers well enough. This is evident by the sheer number of workers' compensation cases.
"The situation is not under control when people are getting sick," says Jeanne Duus.
DR News has also learned that Siemens Wind Power has illegally been spraying with isocyanates from 2003 to 2011 in its production of wind turbine blades. Siemens has confirmed this for DR News.
Violations of the Working Environment Act
According work researcher, Peter Hasle, Siemens Wind Power has broken the law in several areas.
"The Environment Act for workplaces requires that workplace must meet safety and health requirements, which means people should not be getting sick at their place of work," says Peter Hasle and adds "When it occurs over a long period, it is of course obvious that it is the employer who has not lived up to its obligations to protect employees."
The same assessment comes from Hans Jørgen Limborg.
"It's incredible that an exposure of hazardous substances can take place over such a long time. You are breaking the law if you do not make sure to get the exposure stopped," he said. "64 cases is too much"
Siemens Wind Power's press officer, Rasmus Windfeld, says it is "totally unacceptable" that employees of the wind turbine manufacturer have been sick in 64 cases.
"64 people injured during work with us is 64 too many. We should not have any. We will work hard to bring the number to zero," he said.
According to the Working Environment Act, the employer holds sole responsibility for ensuring that employees do not get sick. How could Siemens have been living up to that responsibility with such a high number of cases?
What are the consequences of this for Siemens?
The consequences have not changed. Employers must ensure the strictest focus on safety as they possibly can have.
"Will continue to break the law"
Professor Peter Hasle is unsympathetic towards Siemens Wind Power and does not expect them to do more.
"Given that Siemens has failed to recognize that they must do more than they already have, and the fact that there are illnesses still being reported, I expect Siemens Wind Power to continue to break the law. For it is solely the employer's responsibility to ensure that the working environment does not make anyone sick.
Translation using Google Translate