Blog: Putting health and safety first

30 May 2019


The annual IWEA Health & Safety Conference took place on 22nd May at the Mount Wolseley Hotel in Tullow, Co. Carlow. The event was well attended by IWEA members and industry from further afield. The theme of this year’s conference was Energy for the Future – Safe and Sustainable and we were honoured to have Dr. Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive of the HSA as a keynote speaker sharing the HSA’s new strategy on the day. There were several key learnings and practical takeaways for delegates on the day and for those of you who could not make it, they have been summarised below by IWEA’s Health & Safety Committee Chair, Ronan O’Meara of EnergyPro.

An evolving Industry

The conference opened with notable keynote from the Chief Executive of the HSA, Dr. Sharon McGuinness who highlighted that the authority were looking to approach things differently with their new strategy, focusing and prioritising high risk areas, collaborating with industry and being broad in their thinking about Health & Safety. To accentuate this, Dr. McGuinness stated the HSA are aiming to be a good regulator, working with industry in advance of what is expected in a transparent and clear manner. The improvement in safety performance of construction in recent years was mentioned as a positive but that it would remain a focus area for the HSA within their new strategy with working at height, machinery and exposure to dust being mentioned specifically. The number one focus for Dr. McGuinness was ensuring healthy workplaces and healthy employees. It was highlighted to the conference that there was a need for leaders to buy into Health & Safety as a business driver and that the culture within organisations needs to come from the top for this to be successful. 

This years’ conference was sponsored by Roadbridge, their Chairman Jim Mulhair highlighted the importance of safety as a driver for adding value and to win organisations work. He went on to note that clients have a responsibility to reach the safety benchmark if they are to work with Roadbridge and again tabled the importance of leadership and culture and safety as the real driver for their business. In support of this the Roadbridge “Your Safety Path” initiative was highlighted. This is a display board which is erected in the public area on each of their projects and has two main elements; 5 Critical Safety Rules and the Roadbridge Board of Directors Charter. As a new member working on one of Roadbridges projects, you will be asked to sign this Board verifying your commitment to the Charter and the Critical Safety Rules which includes a Behavioural based safety programme called “Our Safe Path Agreements”, whereby safer behaviours are nurtured and ultimately lead towards lower incidence of accidents.

The most poignant session of the day focused on a real life fall from height. This personal account was delivered by the excellent James Gorry who was confined to a wheelchair and paralysed from the stomach down from a workplace fall from height accident in 2005. James highlighted his and his families struggle with the life changing impact of this. The key takeaway James wanted to impart to individuals and their organisations was that choices lead to consequences and we must live with them. James pointed out that one small mistake, a lapse in concentration, breaking of a rule or deviating from a plan can change a persons life for ever and that getting people home safely from work at the end of the day (including oneself) should be paramount to an organisations culture. As James put it on the day, your award for working safely today is waiting for you at home.


Demonstrating Safety

The second part of the day focused upon practical demonstrations of key focus areas within the industry, each delivered by experts in their field.
Working under suspended loads and manual handling
Declan Corrigan of Wind Turbine Engineering Ltd. focused upon working under suspended loads and manual handling using an impressive life size model of a Davit turbine crane. The key learnings from this session were;
• Heavy lifts need to be well managed and secure, with use of exclusion zones
• As the Irish fleet grows, liability grows and there is an increased need for safety
• Need to identify ‘high risk zone’, set exclusion zone accordingly. Radio when leaving or entering (attended hardstand). Can also have unattended hardstand, sign showing number for worker
• Must carry out safety prechecks before lift. Check safety hook, chain bag condition, limit switches, fault reporting
• Use basic principles for lifting. Close lift bag, don’t exceed capacity, move back from landing zone etc. ‘Always assume load will fall’
• Lifting capacity set by crane, or lifting bag, or capacity of workers to transfer load
• Need to be proactive. Simple, clear procedures to protect people
• Importance of using correct technique when transferring a load from the service crane into the nacelle

Preparing for Offshore Wind
Chris Delahunt, Richie O’Donoghue and Michael Donnelly of GE focused on preparing for offshore wind in Ireland using experiences from Irelands only operating offshore wind farm, the 25MW Arklow Bank. The GE team also showcased relevant PPE and rescue gear specific to working offshore. The key learnings from this session were;
• The crew transfer vessels (CTVs) used for maintenance travel into tide for safety. This allows for them to naturally float away from turbine
• The crew can only operate depending on tide and wind conditions and get 5 day forecast from Met Office to help planning around wind speed, direction, wave heights, swell direction.
• Technicians must wear PPE inclusive of neoprene suits, harness, life jacket and a personal locator beacon (PLB). The PLB once activated (by entering water or pushing button), can transmit location for 24 hours
• Crew can only transfer to the turbine from the CTV when skipper says. The technician will secure position using a lanyard and climb the 14m high ladder one at a time
• There is a safety kit available including first aid, defibrillator, oxygen and splint kits. Emergency plans are in place for specific scenarios and provisions are also on turbines if people need to stay for extended periods due to conditions
• Primary route of evacuation from turbine is via helicopter from the ‘helideck’ atop the turbine. Turbine must be stopped, yawed 90 degrees to the wind and the helicopter approaches against the wind. Evacuate down through tower for less serious events or if coastguard not available
• All technicians are trained in first aid, work in teams of 3 for evacuation (onshore normally 2)
• available
• Importance of carrying out drills with coastguard and other relevant stakeholders

Rescue from height procedures on site
Eoin Lynch and Eddie Ferguson of ARCH focused on rescue procedures on site through video analysis of previous drills and discussion with the groups to ensure we understand the importance of learning from mistakes within a drill environment. The key learnings from this session were;
• The need to run drills with technicians regularly on site to ensure they work and for those involved to learn from the process.
• Must identify what you’re testing for e.g. hub rescue, and measure success of drills by videoing and evaluating
• Give detailed rescue plans for technicians to follow. A safe rescue is needed with constrictive, positive discussion after drills
• Better to drill constantly rather than intermittently
• During a rescue, scene safety requires clear areas without mess, good lighting, removal of trip hazards and marked anchor points
• First responders should ensure they have a first aid kit, ensure a primary and secondary surveying of casualty and environment, they should bring a defibrillator (AED) and a control rate descender (CRD). It is important a plan is made first and select the correct equipment
• Hub Access Method should ensure the efficient use of the CRD, with an anchor point inside the hub and a 10m lanyard
• On arrival at the rescue the CRD needs to be ready outside the hub bringing inside and a primary and secondary survey should be used
• For extraction of the casualty, open the hatch with proper equipment, take care with casualty and lift sufficiently and ensure to remove the work positioning harness
• It is important to have someone waiting on ground to receive the casualty, utilise proper equipment to keep them warm, move to a safe area and for them to bring first aid and stretcher
• Moving from training centre to drill in more realistic setting highlights the difficulties that are faced.
• Technicians must know and look at procedures regularly

Wind Farm Safety future focus workshop
Jeanette Gill of the Green Tech Skillnet facilitated a future focus workshop for industry training needs. Delegates were introduced to the Skillnet, informed of how it operates, and previous courses run for and by industry to date by the network. Delegates were introduced to what the future world of work might look like for the industry and the importance of transferable skills outside of safety specific and mandatory technical training. The final part of the workshop saw delegates take part in a pin board exercise focused on future training requirements for the industry which will feed into the Green Tech Skillnets training needs analysis for its 2020 training programme.
Sharing the international safety perspective
The conference also looked at experiences and good practices from the UK relating to offshore wind energy and emergency response good practice.

Offshore Safety in the UK
Kate Garvey of G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation discussed the role of her organisation in being committed to promoting and maintaining the highest possible standards of health and safety throughout the life cycle of offshore wind farms. This included experiences from the UK with an opportunity for a less mature market such as Ireland to learn from and their industries strong history and experiences with the regulator, the HSE.
The key learnings from this presentation were;
• G+ is trying to influence better safety performance across all countries (not just in the UK) and trying to prevent fatalities
• The importance of working with the regulator to improve industry performance
• Engaging with those outside of Health & Safety leadership to influence behavioural change
• The importance of incident data reports for learning
• For Ireland to look at what has gone on historically in the UK and look to rectify any failings
• Utilise the G+ good practice case studies and 15 years of learning which can be found HERE
• Invitation for industry in Ireland to engage with the G+ Safe by design workshops. More information on these workshops can be found HERE

Emergency Response in the UK
Rhys Jones of RUK discussed the work that has been done in the UK recently on emergency response and emergency preparedness. The principles discussed were based on the guidance produced by RenewableUK jointly with, the Renewable Energy Emergency Forum (REEF), SafetyOn, and G+ in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK Police. The guidance should be seen as industry good practice and Duty Holders are encouraged to follow the advice.
The key learnings from this presentation were;
• The Key Principles of Emergency Response Planning
• The Key Elements of an Emergency Plan
• The Key Considerations that should be taken into account for developing and reviewing Emergency Plans
• The Key elements of command and control for Emergency Response
• The Key Principles for identifying learning following events and exercises

A video of Rhys detailing the above is available HERE

The day finished up with an interactive quiz and panel session with the excellent Mick O’Grady of ESB and IWEA fame chairing and acting as quiz master. The quiz tested the delegates on the day’s events and key learnings highlighted above, with the panel adding further discussion to the points raised. It must be said that competition was tough amongst tables with Table 15 eventually coming out on top with full marks on the day, laying claim to the much sought-after prizes.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who attended the conference last week alongside the extremely high calibre of speakers and demonstrators that delivered thought provoking and innovative sessions on the day. Presentations from the day can be found HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all at next year’s conference.
If you or someone from your organisation are interested in finding out more about or contributing to the IWEA Health & Safety Committee and its range of working groups, please contact Ross McNally in IWEA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.