The Health and Safety Executive has released a safety notice for those involved with service lifts in offshore and onshore wind turbines after a turbine technician was injured by a service lift. 

Following a service technician suffering serious injuries after his hand became trapped in the controls of a wind turbine service lift, the HSE has issued a safety notice for:

  1. Duty holders (a person or entity who owes a legal duty) who:
    1. design, manufacture, construct or operate wind turbines;
    2. maintain, service or undertake statutory testing on wind turbines and their employers; and
  2. Suppliers and manufacturers of service lifts for wind turbines

The Safety Notice, which can be found here, comes following what the HSE has described as “an absence of defined industry standards for the safe design of service lifts within wind turbines” which has resulted in “discrepancies in the application of required safeguards by designers and manufacturers.” 

Operators of wind turbines and employers of persons who operate or undertake maintenance activities on such wind turbines, should “immediately check the design of gates, associated guarding, and the position of the external controls of lifts in use.” If these are inadequate the notice states that these lifts should either be withdrawn from use or have short term control measures in place whilst:

  1. the controls are repositioned; or 
  2. sufficient guarding” is installed.

If you are a manufacturer, you should help duty holders who operate lifts, or employers of users of lifts, or those that you have supplied to, to eliminate these hazards and ensure that all lifts supplied to the UK satisfy the essential health and safety requirements as required by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

New Standard

The HSE notice explains that “[a] new standard, ‘BS EN 81-44 - Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts. Special lifts for the transport of persons and goods. Part 44. Lifting appliances in wind turbines’ , is due to be published.” This standard will set the benchmark for the safe design of service lifts and associated safeguards. Once published, this standard should be referred to when undertaking the conformity assessment process. 

Until that time, operators, manufacturers and suppliers of wind turbine service lifts should comply with their duties under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Under this Regulation, people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment are required to ensure its safe usage. In particular, and as this case reminds us, Regulation 11(1) requires employers to ensure that measures are taken to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. 

The number of offshore wind projects and advancement in renewable technologies around the world continues to increase. The rapid expansion also means it is important to keep up to date with the latest guidance. If you have any questions regarding this notice or would like to discuss a related issue, please contact Charlotte Whitaker or Ben Davies in our Health and Safety team.