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Solar Energy Future Bright in California

By Christine Torres

Labels on rooftop solar panels

A state known for its golden skylines, California will begin to amplify its usage of one of its greatest commodities. Solar will become a primary energy source for the state after regulators approved a plan to mandate the installation of solar panels on new home construction starting in 2020. This mandate helps cut energy usage and improves the state’s carbon footprint, with a goal of a 40% reduction by 2030 set by Gov. Jerry Brown. As solar installation employment grows, safety will become critical to protecting workers from injuries or death.

“Under these new standards, buildings will perform better than ever, at the same time they contribute to a reliable grid,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, an energy efficiency lead at the California Energy Commission. The other benefits of solar energy use in new homes, McAllister said, is that these structures will be more efficient, while generating their own clean energy. Homes will cost less to operate and will also produce healthier indoor air, he added.

Solar Installation Hazards

According to 2017 National Solar Job Census data, more than 250,000 Americans work in solar. The deaths of three solar installers were investigated in 2017 by the California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE). Pitched roofs, lack of fall protection, overhead power lines, and unguarded edges, including skylights, were among the contributing factors in those deaths, according to FACE. Other job hazards in the solar installation industry include improper lifting, incorrect ladder usage, and electrical safety hazards. Solar energy workers can protect themselves by using safety glasses, hard hats, gloves, respirators, and other personal protective equipment.

During an emergency, solar panels should have the appropriate label information on them to help instruct electricians and even firefighters. In an effort to improve compliance and safety, the National Electric Code (NEC) was revised in 2017 to help communicate hazards and identify components of solar panels. Solar labeling requirements include pertinent safety information as well as proper formatting, depending on the type of system that is ready for installation. Use labels and signs to identify disconnects, conduits, source and output circuits, rapid shutdowns, general warnings, and more.

rapid shutdown switch for solar pv system label

Brighten Safety Plans

Installing solar panels is dangerous work. Business owners and construction industry professionals can increase safety on installation jobs through ongoing training and safety best practices. Conduct a regular job hazard analysis of work sites and adjust safety plans accordingly. Prevent injuries from falls and other solar installation hazards by following current safety standards. Keep workers updated on safety through communication using guides, videos, signs and labels, and other forms of informative material.

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