Tools


Siemens Worldwide

The Magazine

Contact

Contact
The Magazine
Subscribe

Work safety

Hands-on training for real-world safety

The state-of-the-art Wind Service Training Center prepares customers as well as Siemens wind service technicians for the safe and efficient maintenance and service of wind turbines. Experience a training day.

A man hangs limp on a ladder while just a few yards away another is being pulled from a narrow enclosure under a generator, his back strapped to a board and his neck in a brace. Such scenes are commonplace at the Siemens Wind Service Training Center in Orlando, Florida, where wind turbine technicians come from throughout the Americas for rigorous and realistic safety and technical training.

“Even though you work with the equipment every day in the field, you don’t use it in a rescue scenario every day,” says Alex Freund, a technician based in Marshalltown, Iowa. “So it’s nice to be refreshed on how to properly use it and to make sure you understand every nuance.”

Freund and his fellow trainees were practicing rescue techniques for working at heights while nearby another group was standing within the cramped confines of a wind turbine nacelle, where they had just pulled a colleague with a simulated injury from the hub several feet below.

Wind turbine technicians practice rescue techniques with the same equipment they use in the field

The best possible learning environment

The Wind Service Training Center is a state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot facility that opened in September 2013. Earl Walker, head of training and development for Siemens Wind Service Americas, says every aspect of the facility was designed to create the best possible learning environment, from the layout of the classrooms to the audiovisual equipment, lighting, and comfort of the chairs. The center combines classroom instruction with hands-on training to ensure that technicians have the skills and experience to work safely and efficiently. “Our goal is for them to do exactly what they would do in the field and to prove that they’re doing it right,” Walker says.

Safety first

Journalist Sameh Fahmy spent a day at the Siemens Wind Service Training Center in Orlando, Florida, where technicians who maintain and service wind turbines undergo rigorous and realistic safety and technical training. Here’s what he saw.

In addition to the 2.3 megawatt wind turbine nacelle that Freund was training in, the center also houses a 3.0 megawatt direct drive wind turbine nacelle and three, 30-foot rescue training towers, all of which are located indoors allowing technicians to train without disruption from rain, thunderstorms, and extreme heat. The facility itself is strategically located just a few miles from the international airport in a city that is a major tourist destination and is perhaps best known as the home of Walt Disney World. Orlando also is home to the headquarters of Siemens Energy and near the geographic midpoint of North and South America.

While the subjects of the classes vary, they all emphasize the same theme: safety. As Walker puts it, the technicians work in what essentially amounts to “a small power plant on a stick.” In addition to working at heights of roughly 300 feet, they contend with hazards such as rotating machinery and electrical and hydraulic components.

Our goal is for technicians to do exactly what they would do in the field and to prove that they’re doing it right.
Earl Walker, head of training and development for Siemens Wind Service Americas

First responders

Environmental, health and safety training manager Russell Cook notes that the remote location of many wind farms makes the training that Siemens offers even more critical. “Often the guys go out in teams of two to work and are a long way from help, so we are the first responders,” he says. “Every single person has to be able to save the person they’re with.”

In addition to courses that address working at heights and rescues from confined spaces such as hubs and blades, the center also offers technical trainings on turbine operation, maintenance and troubleshooting. As with the other classes at the center, these courses blend classroom instruction with practical, hands-on experience with equipment. Perhaps not surprisingly, they also have an overriding emphasis on safety. “The more you know about a piece of equipment, the more you can recognize the potential dangers that lie within,” says technical training manager Kevin McCarty.

New classes are constantly under development, many of which are based on customer feedback. Like the other Siemens Wind Service Training Centers in Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the Orlando facility is certified by the Global Wind Organization (GWO). Siemens goes well beyond the minimum legal and regulatory requirements, however, to emphasize that safety is foremost in everything the organization does. “I want safety to be so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even think of it as separate from anything we do,” Walker says. “I want it to be like breathing.”

Such a focus is clear to industry veterans such as Bronson Ellis, energy training coordinator at High Plains Technology Center in Woodward, Oklahoma. “I have seen a lot of trainings,” he says, “and Siemens is head and shoulders ahead of everyone else.”

I want safety to be so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even think of it as separate from anything we do. I want it to be like breathing.
Earl Walker, head of training and development for Siemens Wind Service Americas
Sameh Fahmy, technology journalist based in Athens, Georgia, USA
Picture credits: Thomas Winter