The wind of change

29 April 2013

With the increase in renewable energy development in the UK comes the requirement to ensure that appropriate action, management and teamwork in the area of health & safety is carried out accordingly, explains recruitment consultancy Allen & York

With the increase in renewable energy development in the UK comes the requirement to ensure that appropriate action, management and teamwork in the area of health & safety is carried out accordingly, explains recruitment consultancy Allen & York

RenewableUK has done a great job of raising the profile of health and safety within the UK Wind industry. Working in partnership with lead organisations and key stakeholders, including the HSE and Crown Estate, they actively communicate on health and safety matters, publish best practice guidance, recommend training and hold an annual Health and Safety Renewables conference, which is an indication of the importance of health and safety within renewable energy and the growing number of job opportunities available in this sector.

RenewableUK will shortly be issuing a Safety Bulletin which looks at Winter Working issues in light of the impending Renewables Obligation (RO) banding changes. This is as a result of an expected increase in the number of renewable energy projects aiming to come online before 1st April 2013. The Government introduced RO in 2002 to provide incentives for the deployment of largescale renewable electricity in the UK. The RO requires licensed UK electricity suppliers to source a specified proportion of the electricity they provide to customers from eligible renewable sources.

The development of RISE - the industry's new health and safety incident reporting and benchmarking initiative by RenewableUK also demonstrates the increased focused of health and safety within renewable energy. RISE enables professionals to log, review and analyse incidents from activities within a secure system. This can make it easier for managers to compare health and safety performance against industry peers and the wider renewable energy industry on a confidential and anonymous basis. By sharing safety alerts and relevant health and safety news through RISE, professionals are working together to support and enhance the reputation and safety status of the renewable energy industry.

Growing job opportunities Health and safety job roles that are continually available within the renewable energy sector, which combine health, safety and environmental responsibilities, are often safety engineering professionals, health and safety advisors and managers, and environmental, health and safety managers. At Allen & York we have seen a steady increase in these HSE positions across corporate business, manufacturing, construction and more recently, renewable energy.

David Blake, energy group manager at Allen & York, comments: "More specifically, Allen & York are working with one of the world's leading wind farm developers who have an expanding portfolio of projects at various stages of development around the world. We are assisting them in their recruit for HSE professionals within offshore wind." Offshore wind in particular has seen a further recent boost in the UK, with the DECC awarding £2.3 million in funding to High Voltage Partial Discharge, JDR Cable Systems and Principle Power. This fund is part of the Offshore Wind Component Technologies Development and Demonstration scheme and according to energy and climate change minister Greg Barker: "This fund will give three more companies the boost they need to take their innovative designs to the next level, helping cut costs in offshore wind generation, and ultimately helping us harness more power from turbines out at sea." With the increase in offshore wind farm developments in the UK, HSE professionals with experience working in renewable energy will become increasingly in demand. The responsibilities of the role will be to drive continuous development and implementation of the company's health and safety management systems, monitor performance and implement actions and provide support and training to staff at site level.

With the move towards Round 3 offshore wind developments, a heightened level of new safety risk plays a part in the construction phase in particular. Round 3 may seem a small step from Round 2, but in terms of capex and opex it is a giant leap. Existing offshore wind farms are sited in near-shore, shallow waters of up to 20 metres. To realise the North Sea's full potential, however, Round 3 projects will be located further out to sea - potentially 200 km from shore at depths of 50 metres or more - which requires larger arrays, bigger turbines, deeper foundations and longer construction times. Having qualified risk management professionals in place at this stage is a must for developers and contractors.

Recent worldwide investment in renewable energy technologies, aimed at meeting our demands for lower energy consumption and reduced greenhouse gases, bring with it new roles worldwide.

However, concerns could be raised regarding insufficient attention being given to safety risks in such jobs. For example, some physical hazards that workers face when installing solar panel systems are similar to those in construction, but are new to electricians and plumbers installing PV panels on roofs. These may include working at heights, high temperatures and voltages and confined spaces during construction and maintenance.