Solar Power Hazards and Safety
BY GRAPHIC PRODUCTS EDITORIAL STAFF
The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry has grown rapidly in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. As more employees install more PV systems in the coming years, they must take care to remain safe on the job.
This infographic breaks down the hazards associated with PV installation and offers tips to work safely and improve efficiency.
The following is a transcript of the Solar Power infographic:
Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power Hazards & Safety
14.1 GW of new solar PV power was expected to come online in the U.S. in 2016 – an 88% increase over 2015.
The United States will be installing an estimated 20 GW of solar capacity each year by 2020
- Q3 of 2015: 1,361 MW produced
- Q3 of 2016: 4,143 MW – 181% more than Q3 of 2015
A new MW went online every 32 minutes in Q3 of 2016.
PV solar accounted for 39% of all new electrical power in Q1-Q3 of 2016.
With the rapid rate of growth, safely installing PV solar is paramount:
- In 2016, almost 230,000 Americans worked in solar, 2x that of 2010.
- By 2020, approximately 420,000 workers will work in the industry.
While solar energy is among the cleanest and least hazardous of energy sources, there are four significant hazards during installation and maintenance: Lifting, Electrical, Trips and Falls, and Ladders.
Solar panels are awkward and heavy. Improperly lifting panels can cause strains, muscle pulls, and serious back injuries, including:
- Herniated discs
- Rotator cuff tears
- Hip-low back strains
- Use mobile carts, forklifts, or other non-manual methods to reduce lifting.
- Use gloves to protect your hands and improve your grip.
- Get a secure grip with both hands.
- Use smooth, even motions.
- Keep the load as close to the body as possible.
- Step to one side or the other to turn. Do not twist your body.
Trips and Falls
In construction, falls accounted for nearly 40% of fatalities in 2014. The most common height of fatal construction falls over the 2011-14 period was from more than 30 feet (211 deaths); however, fatalities from 11 to 15 feet are almost as deadly (194 deaths). Other risks include:
- Broken, Fractured, or Shattered Bones
- Severe Back, Neck, and Head Trauma
- Internal Injuries
- Puncture Injuries
- Identify all potential slip, trip, and fall hazards before starting.
- Keep work areas clear of debris and obstructions, including loose shingles, poorly-placed tools, and electrical cords.
- Ensure work surfaces are free from ice, oil, water, and other substances.
Visit our resource hub to learn more about the tools and strategies needed to work safely and efficiently.
Employees working on a surface with an unprotected side/edge that’s SIX FEET or more above a lower level must use fall protection:
- Personal fall arrest systems
- Safety nets
Work areas six feet or more above a lower level must use one of the following methods of fall protection:
- Install guarding around ledges, sunroofs, and skylights.
- Cover holes and other openings.
- Erect safety net systems.
- Provide personal fall protection systems using a body harness and anchor. The system must support at least 5,000 pounds, and anchor points must be rated to support 5,000 pounds per attached workers.
Solar systems include many components that conduct electricity. Electricity comes from two sources: the utility company and the solar array (i.e. the sun). Even when a building’s main breaker is shut off, the PV system will continue to produce power. Risks include:
- Thermal burns
- Muscle, nerve, and tissue damage
- Falls from a surprise shock
Even low-light conditions can create sufficient voltage, shocking a worker and causing a fall.
- Inspect your equipment to ensure it’s in safe working condition.
- Work a safe distance from power lines.
- Cover the solar array with an opaque sheet to “turn off” the sun’s light.
- Lockout/Tagout and de-energize AC and DC power sources.
- Always test circuits to ensure they are de-energized before working on them.
- Use a current clamp to check for hazardous energy before working on PV panels.
- Take special care around inverters. These can hold a powerful charge even when power is removed.
- Never disconnect PV connectors or other equipment that’s under load.
- Wear the appropriate PPE for electrical safety.
Work safely with our Best Practice Guide to Lockout/Tagout. Learn best practices for locking out, de-energizing, and tagging out equipment before you begin work. Prevent accidents and avoid citations by implementing lockout/tagout (LO/TO)
Among construction workers, approximately 81% of fall injuries treated in emergency rooms involve a ladder. Between 2011 and 2014, ladders accounted for 24% of fatal falls (281). Other risks include:
- Fractures or sprains
- Puncture injuries
- Back, neck, and head trauma
- Cuts and bruises
- Inspect ladders before use. Mark defective ladders with a label stating “Do Not Use.”
- Use a fiberglass ladder with non-conductive side rails near power sources. Aluminum and metal ladders are hazardous near power lines or electrical work.
- Ensure that ladders will extend a minimum of three feet above the last rung that the worker will stand upon.
- Place the ladder on dry, level ground, away from walkways and doorways, and a safe distance from power lines. Secure ladders to ground or rooftop.
- Grasp the horizontal ladder rungs (not the vertical rails) and maintain 3 points of contact.
- Never carry a solar panel or other equipment while climbing a ladder. Use a winch or hoist system to lift solar panels to the roof.
Remind workers to inspect, maintain, and properly use ladders on a regular basis with DuraLabel labels by Graphic Products.
IMPROVE ELECTRICAL SAFETY AND KEEP WORKERS SAFE
Properly label your PV solar system using the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Labeling Guide.