Solar Worker SafetyOctober 16, 2018
As the solar energy industry continues to grow, so does the demand for solar energy installation workers. The executive director of sustainable energy solutions for the California Labor Management Cooperation Committee has voiced concerns about the new workers’ skill level, and notes that they may be at risk in terms of safety.
According to the Solar Foundation’s 2017 National Solar Jobs Census, the solar workforce has increased from 93,000 jobs in 2010 to over 250,000 jobs in 2017.
The solar employment boom will likely continue, especially in light of the new California mandate, requiring most new home construction to incorporate solar power systems starting in 2020.
The Department of Finance reports that construction of approximately 58,000 new single-family homes began in 2017. With so much demand, and more on the way, many are concerned about the level of training these new workers are receiving and whether it is adequate.
In a recent case, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined a solar panel company $110,863. In that case, a worker was shocked when he attempted to take a cell phone picture of 13,800-volt transformers, while working on a 19-acre solar farm. The company is appealing the fine and declined to discuss its training and safety practices with local media.
According to another Solar Foundation report, workers in the solar installation industry have a wide range of experience; some have very little while others are licensed, seasoned electricians.
A Solar Foundation survey revealed that out of more than 400 employers, only 34 percent offered formal on-the-job training. Of those with a formal training program, 65 percent included OSHA’s 10 or 30-hour construction courses. Also, only 24 percent of 800 online employment ads for solar installation workers listed having an OSHA safety card as a prerequisite or preference.
Finally, only 10 percent listed certification by the North American Board for Certified Energy Practitioners (the Board) as a requirement or preference.
According to the Board’s executive director, the Board has only certified about 25,000 workers. That equals approximately 10 percent of the workforce. Several installation companies interviewed by the media said that most new solar installation workers do not have any prior experience or training.
The companies train the workers once they are hired through online and in-person training, as well as hands-on experience on roofs. One executive officer said that she looks for experience in construction, roofing, or electrical. Then new hires are trained on a practice roof that is lower to the ground, to minimize their risk of injuries from falls.
In 2017, OSHA awarded a $154,766 grant to a nonprofit company to develop a 12-hour online solar safety course. The nonprofit’s spokesperson said that the initial 1,000 slots for the course were promptly filled.
Many solar power companies have taken safety more seriously in recent years, which has led to increased focus on training and a reduction in work injuries.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Injured Solar Workers
If you were injured in a workplace accident, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will ensure that your legal rights are protected at all times and secure the maximum financial benefits you may be entitled to. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.