Standards for worker safety vary widely across the solar industry. As the industry grows rapidly, concerns about solar worker safety are accompanying that growth.
No OSHA Standard
At the federal level, there are no specific standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for the solar industry and there are no dedicated training programs for solar safety. However, in 2017 the Paonia, Colorado nonprofit group Solar Energy International won an OSHA grant to develop a 12-hour online course which was met with high demand for participation.
OSHA generally expects companies to use the safety standards made for the construction industry. Most state and local governments that regulate the installation of solar panels do so through electrical code inspections and license requirements for contractors. These requirements differ state by state.
According to a Department of Energy report, workers in the solar industry range from licensed electricians with thousands of hours of experience under their belts to new workers with no experience at all.
Of the more than 400 employers that took part in a survey for the report, only 34 percent said they offer formal on-the-job training.
The Clifton Park, N.Y. based American Board for Certified Energy Practitioners has established voluntary standards for training solar energy workers. However, in a review of 800 online ads geared at solar workers, only 10 percent required or preferred applicants to have been certified by the organization. Roughly one-quarter of the ads required or preferred applicants who had earned an OSHA safety card.
Safety Hazards in the Solar Industry
The main risks for injury in the solar industry are falls, electrical accidents, and heat stress injuries. Workers installing solar panels on roofing should use personal fall protection such as harnesses to avoid the serious work injuries and fatalities that come with falls from heights. All the components of a fall protection system should be checked daily before work begins. Workers must be trained in how to properly use protective gear. Panels should not be carried up ladders, but rather lifted to the roof with cables.
Many solar panels are installed in communities with hot, dry conditions, thus leaving workers vulnerable to heat stress injuries including heat stroke, which can be fatal. Workers must be given frequent breaks in shade or a cooled environment and cease working when temperatures reach extremes. They should receive training about recognizing the warning signs of heat stress and use the buddy system to ensure that a worker suffering from heat stress gets immediate medical attention.
Electrical accidents can happen when solar workers are not properly trained to do the jobs they were hired for. Recently, OSHA issued a large fine against SolarCity, a subsidiary of Tesla, when a worker on a solar farm in Massachusetts received a shock from the installation’s transformers.
While the solar industry has come a long way with safety standards, they are still highly uneven and often depend on state regulations. Solar workers should be aware of their right to proper training and a safe work environment.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Advocate for Injured Solar Workers
All employers must maintain a safe work environment for their employees, including training them to recognize and avoid safety hazards. If you are a solar worker who has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Speak to the Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. regarding your legal options. Call us at 866-881-8623 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.
With six convenient locations we serve injured workers across the state of South Carolina, including those in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the counties of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.