2 have been injured this month
PRATT – The U.S. Department of Labor has opened a second investigation at a Pratt County wind farm after two workers were injured in separate incidents in less than a week.
The latest incident happened Wednesday night after a 4-pound bolt fell and struck Blattner Energy employee Gary Newman on the head – knocking him unconscious. Newman is from California, according to Pratt County Sheriff Vernon Chinn.
OSHA is also is investigating a July 3 incident where a worker fell some 120 feet at the same Ninnescah Wind Farm, the government office said in a press release issued Thursday afternoon.
The sheriff’s office continues to assist in the investigation. Chinn reported that EMS was dispatched around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday to the wind farm, located about 7 miles east and 4 miles south of Pratt.
On arrival, sheriff’s officers found 26-year-old Newman with a severe head wound. The worker was about 100 feet above the ground inside the tower, when a the bolt – approximately 10 inches long – fell from more than 100 feet above the worker, striking him in the head, Chinn said.
Other workers on the scene were able to lower him to the ground, where he regained consciousness. Witnesses said Newman was not wearing a helmet.
He was taken to Kingman Hospital by Pratt County EMS, where they were met by a medical chopper that took him to a Wichita-area hospital.
In the press release, OSHA stated it will conduct a thorough investigation of the construction project to see if any violations of OSHA standards contributed to the accidents. Investigators will gather evidence, interview employees and review relevant company records and documents.
Citations could be issued, according to the release.
“Wind Energy workers are exposed to many hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries such as falls, struck by, electrical shocks and crushing injuries. While wind energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique and OSHA has many standards that cover these working conditions,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s Area Director in Wichita.
Freeman added that wind energy employers need to evaluate their safety and health programs to ensure they are protecting their workers.
Regarding July 3 case, two employees of Wind Composite Services Group LLC were working from a suspended work platform when it dropped, according to a release from OSHA, whose Wichita office opened an investigation on the accident July 5.
The 41-year-old man fell more than 120 feet, landing on his back in a muddy field, while a second worker, suspended by his lifeline, was able to lower himself down to the platform, from where he was lowered to the ground.
The worker who fell remains in critical condition at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis. His name was unavailable.
NextEra Energy Resources contracted with Blattner Energy to be the general contractor for the construction site. Multiple sub-contractors are conducting work at the site.