The recent heavy snow and freezing conditions have no doubt had most of us wishing we did not have to leave the house; even to work in the safe environment of a centrally-heated office. However those working in such conditions should spare a thought for those who require to work outdoors.
In particular, it has been reported this week that a worker at Afton Wind Farm, near New Cumnock, has died after being stranded in heavy snow. The 74 year old was working as a security guard at the wind farm, which is currently under construction, when there was a power cut on Sunday 21st January 2018. Several weather warnings had been placed on the area at that time.
The alarm was raised at around 9pm that the security guard and his 47 year old colleague had been stranded without heat or power. Hours later both men were rescued by the Police Scotland Mountain Rescue Team but sadly the older worker later passed away.
Astonishingly, this recent death is not the first fatality at a Scottish wind farm in recent times. In March 2017, an employee fell to their death at an East Renfrewshire wind farm while another was killed in South Ayrshire. Just as with this recent fatality, both wind farms were still under construction when the fatalities occurred.
The incident at Afton Wind Farm has now been reported to the Health and Safety Executive who are investigating along with Police Scotland. The wind farm owner and the workers’ employer have advised they are co-operating fully with this investigation. However they have not released any further detail on what safeguards, if any, were in place to protect workers in the event of power outages.
Unfortunately, whatever the outcome of the investigation into this recent tragedy, it will come too late for the victims’ and their families. Unite, who are the largest trade union for construction workers, have called for urgent action to be taken. It is clear that improved terms and conditions must now be introduced for workers involved in wind farm construction in order to stop more entirely preventable deaths.
Blog by Claire Campbell, Glasgow Solicitor