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The wind industry: Five vital considerations for rescue and descent systems

Photo shows a row of wind turbinesOne of the most worrying statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive in recent years shows that of all fatalities occurring in a work environment between 2013 and 2014, almost 3 out of every 10 were due to falls from height. While the HSE do not provide figures for specific industries in this context, one industry in which the potential risk of this occurring is higher than most is the wind energy industry, where working at extreme heights is an everyday necessity.

Professionals working in the wind energy industry are well aware of the risks that they face every day, but just being aware of the risks isn’t enough to reduce the chances of an incident occurring to an acceptable level. Health and safety managers must also provide construction and maintenance workers with the right equipment to stay safe.

Providing the correct equipment to lessen these risks ultimately helps to reduce the likelihood of injury or death happening in these environments. But another aspect, just as important as trying to prevent a fall from occurring, is the rescue procedure once a fall has been arrested. With the elevated risk of falls in the wind energy sector, rescue is evidently a vital area of fall protection that must be addressed. The speed at which rescue takes place can directly affect the injuries a worker sustains following an arrested fall. The longer the delay, the worse any injuries could be.

In order to ensure that rescue response is optimal and a worker can be retrieved and/or lowered quickly and effectively, rescue and decent devices must be considered a fundamental aspect of fall protection equipment for all workers carrying out any work at height on wind turbines. This equipment must provide the speed, functionality, capacity, versatility, and portability to facilitate rapid and effective rescue.


The capacity (in the case of rescue and descent devices the Maximum Rated Load) of equipment in specific environments, and for specified purposes is a vital consideration. The equipment used must be deemed to be safely within expected capacity parameters. In a situation of rescue and/or descent with 2 persons attached, equipment must be rated to be able to support a two-person load of up to 281Kgs (not including the additional safety factor which differs depending on the piece of equipment).


As mentioned, time cannot be wasted during a rescue after an arrested fall; every second counts. Orthostatic Intolerance, also known as Suspension Trauma, can happen within 20-30 minutes, and there could be more severe injuries involved. Rapid descent is essential, and the ability to reach the ground, or a suitable area for evacuation quickly is crucial. In this, devices with automatic descent control and braking systems should be specified to improve safety, security, and piece of mind.


In emergency situations, having complicated, or unnecessarily complex devices can cause time delays and hamper rescue attempts. Providing workers with fully automatic, hands-free rescue and descent systems that require minimal training is clearly advantageous in this regard. Equipment that is intuitive and easy to use can make the difference between life and death or serious injury.

Lightweight design and durability

Providing personnel with equipment that is fit for purpose, and tough enough to face the harsh environments commonly experienced when working on wind turbines is clearly a key consideration. Modern, compact rescue and descent systems that comprise of cast aluminium components are highly recommended, as they are designed to stand up to the rigors of these environments with ease.


Using equipment that is designed for the specific environment and the intended use is paramount. Hence, equipment that is versatile enough to be used for a number of functions, in various situations, and in differing environments, is hugely beneficial in terms of both value and performance. In order to meet a variety of site requirements, options such as humidity casing, rope length, lifting handles, and ladder brackets provide this flexibility. The most versatile systems are designed to offer such functions as controlled descent, and lifting capabilities for evacuation or assisted rescue.

In these situations of fall protection and rescue, there are no second chances, and no margin for error. In the wind energy sector, where the potential risk of falls from height is particularly high, safety considerations are essential and can make the difference between life and death. This is why it is evidently extremely important that height safety equipment is supplied which accurately and effectively suits the tasks being performed, the capabilities of the workforce, and the environment in which work is being carried out, in order to diminish these risks to an acceptable level. By selecting the most appropriate rescue and descent devices to meet these considerations, you are doing your bit to ensure that your workers are as safe as they can be whenever they are working at height.

Author bio

Jim Adams, UK Energy and Utilities Sector Sales Manager at Capital Safety

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