A Minnesota-based wind energy company willfully violated safety practices when a technician got severely burned last October at an Illinois wind turbine project, the U.S. Labor Department said Tuesday.
Outland Energy Services, with headquarters in Canby and offices in Mendota Heights, faces a proposed penalty of $378,000 for six violations. The Labor Department said the case is one of the 10 worst safety violations in the Midwest region in the past year.
The technician suffered third-degree burns to his neck, chest and arms and second-degree facial burns in the Oct. 20 accident at the Iberdrola Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm near Odell, Ill., the Labor Department said.
An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Outland didn't ensure technicians working in wind turbine towers placed locks and tags on ground-level switches. A worker flipped a switch, energizing a transformer while the technician was working 350 feet above, OSHA found.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the wind power industry must not cut corners at workers' expense.
"Outland's management was aware of the potentially hazardous conditions to which its workers could have been exposed and showed intentional disregard for employee safety," Solis said.
The company said it disagreed with OSHA's finding but intended to work with the agency to resolve the matter.
Outland has "taken steps to ensure that an accident like this does not happen again," President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Scott said in a statement, adding, "we're thankful that the employee who was injured has returned to work."
Five farmers founded Outland in 2005, with headquarters in a converted John Deere dealership in Canby, 100 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, S.D. It employs 130 technicians servicing wind farms in the United States, Canada, and Japan.
David Shaffer • 612-673-7090