As any weekend do-it-yourselfer will attest, the key to a successful project begins with having the proper tools. The same rationale can also be applied to wind farm construction and operations and maintenance.
Given the rigors of wind farm maintenance – technicians are required to work in enclosed spaces at heights exceeding 200 feet, often in remote locations – disorganization and haste can lead to catastrophe. In a perfect world, human error would be eliminated, and crunched-for-time field technicians would resist cutting corners or creating ad-hoc work-arounds. Tools would not be left behind or, worse, inadvertently fall to the ground from the nacelle. However, calamities involving tools are not only possible, but also probable.
And now the stakes are even higher, as federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are increasing their oversight on U.S. wind farms. In fact, the OSHA has recently identified incidents of “dropped tools” among its list of top safety concerns.
“We know these things happen,” explains John Tremblay, manager for power generation at Snap-on Industrial. “But how can we prevent recurring instances or occurrences going forward?”
Tremblay says organizations can enhance their safety and productivity culture by incorporating some fundamental behaviors.
“It starts with carefully identifying the most appropriate tool for each job,” he explains. “There is often more than one tool that appears satisfactory.”
Nonetheless, from a safety, ergonomic and productivity perspective, “there is usually an ideal tool.”
He notes that “lean” tool kits, which carry only the necessary equipment, eliminate lugging extra weight and tools. Further, lean kits lessen the likelihood of using an incorrect tool, explains Tremblay.
Additionally, he says, incorporating accountability into kits can help keep tools from being left behind.
“Tool silhouettes allow inventory to be performed in a matter of seconds,” he says, noting that this can save a trip back to retrieve a forgotten tool. If left inside a nacelle, a wayward tool can cause significant turbine damage.
When implementing a drop prevention program, it is important to consider the functionality of each tool, he cautions. “Be sure that the solution doesn’t compromise a tool’s safe and productive use.”
With efficiency (and safety) in mind, NAW reached out to several tool and construction service providers to obtain similar tips and techniques for using tools safely and efficiently. Below are their responses:
- Remember that a tool or a pump that is not working properly or is visibly damaged should never be used on a job. The use of damaged equipment can result in quality issues and/or serious injuries. – Steve Spears, wind power bolting specialist, HYTORC
- We always carry up a couple of extra fittings with us because no one wants to make a 300-foot bonus climb. – Josh Mooneyham, calibration manager, White Construction
- There’s no longer any need to haul around bulky tools in trenches, pad-mount transformers or at the base of a wind turbine. A splice and terminal connector for power cables that use shear bolts will work just as well. With the shear bolt system, technicians simply need their cable stripping tools and a cordless impact wrench. – Zeb Green, general manager of substation/inside wiring, Michels Power
- A properly trained crew on the tool that they are going to use for the day is money well spent. – Doug Stoehr, erection superintendent, HB White Canada
- Using clear commands is an easy way to increase safety on any bolting job. Make sure everyone is aware of the commands, and stay away from similar-sounding words like “no” and “go,” which can lead to serious injuries if they are mixed up. – Joe Paul, technical director, HYTORC
- When transporting your tools up tower, make sure to use proper lifting equipment to ensure that loose equipment doesn’t fall down the tower or become damaged by obstructions on the way up. – Joachim Santen, wind power growth manager, HYTORC
- Performance of daily, documented tool validations ensures that turbines are being erected within stringent manufacturer standards. – Josh Mooneyham, calibration manager, White Construction
- If the job requires one person to keep the tool in place and another to operate the hydraulic pump, the tool operator should loosen the hose connectors by a couple threads to prevent the tool from operating until he is ready to go. – Kerwyn Bornell, field services, HYTORC
- Carrying a nine-ounce multi-tool with you will save you a 100 pounds of headache. – Chris Reynolds, calibration manager, White Construction
- On the wind farms we build, our policy is only one tool set per flange. This helps to reduce employee fatigue, which minimizes safety concerns and also increases speed and efficiency. – Randy Allen Peterson, crane/equipment acquisition manager, IEA Equipment Services
- OEM-trained technicians are on each wind farm we build, which allows us to problem-shoot real-time tooling situations, such as replacing a blown seal in a tension head. This allows us to reduce downtime and maintain production. – Ron Larocque, calibration manager, HB White Canada
- One man taking the time to keep your tools clean and properly maintained is a whole lot cheaper than a crew of guys standing around watching the same man trying to troubleshoot the tool when it goes down. – Bret Kasperbauer, quality assurance/quality control director, RMT
- Carrying spare tooling on a job site is an extra expense that no one wants. However, time is something that even Warren Buffet can’t afford if a tool goes down. – Todd Spezia, senior quality assurance/quality control manager, White Construction
Tool Tips From The Field: What The Techs Have Learned
By Mark Del Franco
Suppliers and service providers dispense practical, common-sense tips for handling tools safely and efficiently.
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