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Poco Windy # 10 Running into Things: Safety and Wind Energy CTE

The CTE landscape has certainly changed considerably over the last 40 years. One thing unchanged is a continuing concern for students, and ultimately, workers' safety. Safety is a big deal in pre-employment training by CTE instructors and later on the job, by industry project managers. Avoiding falling objects, fall prevention, proper handling of dangerous tools, working in extreme heat or cold work environments, potential accident/injury avoidance, and unexpectedly ‘running into things’ are all addressed in today’s high-quality CTE programs. Let’s take a closer look at how.

Take for example the relatively new, rapidly growing sustainable energy CTE jobs and related training programs in New Mexico, such as wind turbine service technician training. Here’s the wind energy safety list: PPE - personal protective equipment including clothing; safety procedures and processes; safety equipment and supplies; proper equipment layouts. These are all part of initial CTE training in the wind energy industry. And after hiring, part of industry retraining, and retraining, and retraining. On the job, in-your-face, reminders about safety. Every day. Everywhere.

Let’s take an even closer look, starting with PPE/workwear. Wind energy CTE students receive training in the proper use of ANSI Z89.1 industry standard hard hats or safety helmets, LED headlamps, plus other items such as earplugs and prescription safety glasses, selection and use of work clothes including steel-toed boots, fabric/leather work gloves, Arc-flash Class 2 work shirts and pants, and high visibility vests. Newer headgear includes adjustable chin straps, ear protection, and face shields. Such gear is becoming much more available since similar PPE is now used by outdoor rock/mountain climbers at scenic locations across New Mexico and elsewhere in the American West. By the way, Region 9 will provide much of the PPE gear for dual credit wind energy students in Lincoln County and Mescalero. Right-sized, by the ways, for girls too.

Safety equipment. Wind techs wear safety harnesses with clamps, cable grabs, lanyards, and nylon ropes from the moment they step toward a tower. Fall protection gear. Up in the tower, in the nacelle, equipment is intentionally not randomly laid out, just as any well-organized CTE lab should be on the ground, to facilitate operation as well as for worker safety. Not randomly. iPhones and iPads are now used for tower-to-ground communications, for logging entries regarding equipment inspections. For daily ‘paperwork’!

Safety procedures and processes. Simple stuff like what you can carry in your pockets and what you can’t. A safety review every day before the first tower climb. Troubleshooting practice. Emergency drills. Lockout - tag out training. Techs are trained to look out for each other on safety issues. A partner system. NERC reliability inspections. Safety debriefings. Logs. Establishing and maintaining relationships with rural law enforcement and EMS departments. The safety procedure list is long.

So, safety training in wind energy CTE and beyond, on the job. A big CTE deal and win-win for everybody involved. For more information on PPE clothing and equipment, read ‘Climb Higher’ - a blog about tower climbing, or listen to the industry podcast, ‘Gear Up with Gear Experts: The Podcast’.

This is the home of Region IX CTE. Thanks for dropping by.

James Miller (575) 937-2873

By Dr. James Miller