Advancing Training for a Safe, Skilled Wind Tower Elevator Workforce

All across the country, skilled elevator apprentices and mechanics from the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) build and maintain the conveyance systems for the nation’s fastest-growing clean power energy sector. Installing, servicing, repairing, modernizing, and inspecting the elevators that transport wind turbine workers from the base of the wind tower to the turbine at the top is a natural fit for IUEC elevator constructors, who have extensive experience in this area – they’ve been working safely at heights and in challenging environmental conditions for more than 150 years.

Today, the elevator industry’s experienced and highly-trained mechanics take care of the conveyance systems in the offshore towers at Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, land-based Tempest Group wind power projects in Texas, Missouri, California, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, and other wind farms all over the United States.

A recent collaboration between the IUEC and Survival Systems USA in Groton, CT, brought Global Wind Organization (GWO) Basic Training to elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics to ensure they have the specialized skills required to safely perform this work. The Survival Systems GWO certification program includes the following courses:

  • GWO BST-1005 Basic Safety Training
  • GWO BST-WAH-1002 Work at Height
  • GWO BST-MH-102 Manual Handling
  • GWO BST-FA-2002 Medic First Aid + Trauma
  • GWO BST-FA-101 Fire Awareness
  • GWO-SS GWO Sea Survival
  • GWO-EFA Enhanced First Aid
  • GWO-ART Advanced Rescue Training

ElevatorInfo visited Survival Systems to tour their training campus and learn more about how their GWO training prepares elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics to work on the conveyance systems inside wind towers. “We don’t teach you how to do your job – Survival Systems teaches you how to do your job safely,” explained Maria Hannah, the company’s President & CEO. “You’re the expert in your job. We are here to make sure you understand the tools at your disposal and come home safe at the end of the day.”

Maria emphasized that in order for workers to be comfortable and confident putting their safety training skills to use during high-stress, dangerous scenarios, it’s important they have an opportunity to practice using them in a similar situation. “If you’re actually doing hands-on work in the industry, the best form of training and education that somebody can give you is to send you to a course that forces you to do the same hands-on things you do during the workday,” she said.

So that students get the most out of their training, Survival Systems employs a combination of hands-on and classroom-based learning. “Most of our courses here at Survival Systems start with some form of classroom,” said Keith Wille, a Development Manager for Survival Systems. “From the classroom, they’ll take a break and then they’ll transition to the 28-foot climbing tower outside.”

When ElevatorInfo observed a safety training session in action, Jackson DeSimone, a Survival Systems instructor, was working with a group of IUEC elevator constructors on that climbing tower. “Basically, what we’re trying to simulate is any kind of working-at-heights emergency where you have a partner and they get stuck on the ladder – they want to come down but they maybe can’t help themselves – you need to know how to get both of you down safely,” he told us. This is a vital skill for anyone who works at heights to have.

Dallas Nunes, a member of IUEC Local 39 in Rhode Island, was a participant in the training. There are a growing number of wind industry projects in and around Local 39’s jurisdiction, and while NEIEP’s elevator constructor apprenticeship training gives him the foundational skills he will need to install, service, maintain, and repair wind turbine elevators, Survival Skills’ GWO Basic Skills training will thoroughly prepare him with the safety skills needed to do the specialized work required by the wind industry. “This job is pretty dangerous. Working safe is definitely our number one priority,” he said. “After doing a week of training, I feel confident I know how to rescue someone.”

Maria Hannah talked about how Survival Skills must stay on top of advances in wind industry technology so that training can be continually adapted and improved to meet emerging needs in the field. “The courses have evolved and now we’re showing you new equipment, new procedures – the concepts haven’t changed, but the equipment and the way you apply them have changed,” said Maria. She encouraged any elevator constructor interested in working in the wind industry to take advantage of the collaboration between the IUEC and Survival Skills and come down to the facility in Connecticut to participate in the courses they offer. “You will have a good time here in training. It will not be boring. You’ll learn a lot.”

This week, staff from the IUEC and the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund (EIWPF) are exhibiting at the American Clean Power Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. They will also be at American Clean Power’s Offshore Windpower Conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts on October 3-4, and other wind industry conferences in the future.

Are you an owner, operator, or contractor in the wind industry? If so, you know how important it is to have experienced, highly-skilled mechanics taking care of your equipment. Don’t jeopardize your investment by allowing inexperienced workers to install, service, maintain, or repair your wind tower elevators and conveyance systems. Contact ElevatorInfo to be connected with an IUEC-affiliated company.