Delivering projects in onshore and offshore wind energy often comes concurrently with operating in volatile, hard-to-reach environments.
For GE Renewable Energy, the Bjorkvattnet onshore wind project situated 18 miles southwest of Ramsele in central Sweden is no different.
Emergency Response in Remote Environments
Remote Medical International (RMI), led by Senior Project Coordinator Ashley Saunders, supports GE in the supply of 33 of its 5.3 MW Cypress wind turbines that will be responsible for powering the equivalent of 175,000 Swedish homes.
The project involves deploying a team of highly qualified Global Wind Organisation (GWO) trained paramedics, responsible for first response and emergency medical care of all personnel stationed at the site.
Volatile Weather and Working Under Pressure
The GE Bjorkvattnet project, due to its location, comes with several unique challenges that make ensuring a safe working environment on-site difficult.
RMI medics stationed on-site have to deal with sub-zero temperatures and weather conditions, including extreme wind and snowfall. At the Bjorkvattnet project, there is potential for:
- Falling debris
It is paramount to have a team of experienced medical emergency response professionals that can provide medical care under pressure.
GE Renewable Energy Bjorkvattnet Onshore Wind Project Photos
Reducing the Impact of Distance on Medical Response Time
In locations like Bjorkvattnet, it is crucial to have a team of paramedics who can provide rapid, high-quality care while awaiting the support of the national emergency services.
RMI has deployed an efficient system, working with GE personnel out of a fully serviced clinic in Ramsele that doubles as a walk-in clinic for residents. The worksite paramedics operate on two-week rotations and often station themselves–as a preventative measure–at locations where incidents are more likely to occur.
When they’re not on the clock accompanying staff traveling out to the site from their Ramsele base, the paramedics continually utilize their skills by working with the local ambulance service.
In GE’s case, no significant incidents have occurred and future incidents are unlikely due to the safety measures and protocols put in place by working with RMI.
The Unique Challenges of Turbine Safety
Speaking generally about wind farm construction, Saunders explains that “the column in a generic wind turbine is incredibly cramped and the nacelles haven’t necessarily been designed with emergency access capabilities in mind.”
As a result, providing critical emergency care during the Golden Hour (the crucial period when prompt emergency care can result in the injured person surviving or not) is made all the more difficult.
But having a team that can reach the injured party quickly and effectively, regardless of conditions, is what can help personnel operate in relative safety.
COVID-19 and its Implications
For any project, onshore or offshore, having an effective COVID-19 management plan is essential in creating a safe working environment.
For GE, RMI has provided a suite of services such as instigating rapid antigen testing on-site and ensuring all personnel and locations have the correct PPE.
As with all renewable energy projects operating through the global pandemic, managing staff interactions directly impacts mitigating the virus’s spread. Working with GE, RMI has developed a practical series of protocols that personnel follow when arriving at Bjorkvattnet to protect those currently stationed on-site.
Despite the ongoing challenges of organizing on-site, rapid testing when demand is incredibly high, RMI has successfully worked with GE to ensure such tests are readily available for all personnel involved.
Medical Emergency Response Services
Although RMI’s partnership with GE on the Bjorkvattnet project has been successful in avoiding medical incidences, not all onshore wind projects are equally prepared.
As a result, it is important to plan for what could go wrong by initiating a comprehensive medical emergency response plan with a team of highly qualified industry professionals.