Fire and Safety in the Renewable Energy Market

With the expansion of utilities into renewable energy, such as solar, the need for fire and safety services continues to be an important factor in the industry.

While solar energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique. Arc flashes (which include arc flash burn and blast hazards), electric shock, falls, and thermal burn hazards that can cause injury and death are a few of the hazards workers in the solar energy industry are potentially exposed to in a variety situations of their work. Solar energy employers (connecting to grid) are covered by the Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standards and therefore may be required to implement the safe work practices and worker training requirements of OSHA’s Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standard 1910.269.

With more and more solar energy resources being installed, the likelihood of fire fighters encountering systems, both residential and commercial, increases annually. As a utility provider, within the company safety program, are proper firefighting techniques related to solar equipped structures included in the program?

Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there have been almost as many injuries and fires caused by renewable energy sources as there have been by usual sources. This is something utility companies can continue to spend time and attention on.

Many utility providers have the basic capabilities of fire and safety, and during large jobs the need for on-site fire and safety personnel is growing. The larger utilities may also do confined space work and, according to OSHA, also has specific guidelines for fire and safety personnel. A fire and safety service has the capability to place expert, trained personnel on site to ensure all federal regulations are being followed.

Need for Help

Utility providers focus much time and energy on supplying services, expanding, upgrading, and replacing existing materials. Within that realm is a need for regulated fire and safety services for employees. According to William Henley, Vice-President of Regulatory and Government Affairs for Indianapolis Power and Light, “Even though we place a high priority on safety, we can always improve and any help we can get in that regards is always welcome.”

Gas providers are just as susceptible to fire ignitions or explosions occurring. This is another area where a fire and safety management service company can help. Any time a gas utility provider has high risk work, it is imperative a fire brigade be on site to provide fire and EMS standby.

Many utility companies must deal with possible wildland fires, explosions, electrical fires, and confined space work. All of which may be hazardous to the employees of the utility, as well as the community. An option to ensure a safe working environment is to outsource fire and safety services to a trained, qualified, and specialized service provider such as Capstone Fire & Safety Management.

For more information about fire and safety services for utilities, set up a meeting or visit us at booth #2566 while at DistribuTECH in San Antonio, January 23.