Geothermal/Public Health and Safety

From Open Energy Information

Geothermal Public Health and Safety

Public Health and Safety
Present, Potentially Affected

Health and safety plans accompany every geothermal site to decrease the risk of malpractice. These plans strive to educate and train employees on evacuation drills, how to operate heavy equipment, electrical and wildfire procedures, personal protective equipment, and mitigating harmful chemicals. Acquiring these skills will help employees stay safe, in addition to site visitors.

Public Health and Safety Impacts & Mitigation

Construction and site maintenance pose health and safety threats to site workers and nearby communities. Decrease adverse impacts with the following mitigation measures:

Hydrogen sulfide: When air levels reach .1ppmv, the onset of headaches, nausea and sinus congestion could occur. Any levels above .1ppmv could result in respiratory paralysis or eye damage. Hydrogen sulfide monitors detect air concentrations to delineate safe levels.

Trenching and Excavations: Underground caving is possible when constructing or maintaining geothermal system piping and wells. The ideal soil for a geothermal system may not align with ideal soil to make a stable trench. Reinforcing the underground structure and exit access decreases the risk to workers.

Ammonia: This is often stored onsite, however accidental releases can occur. Ammonia can cause lung damage, skin burns and death. Remove all clothing that came in contact with the chemical or gas and dispose.

Crystalline silica: This is a harmful substance found in concrete. When it becomes airborne through drilling, chipping or cutting, it can cause silicosis or lung disease. Lung tissue becomes scarred and makes it harder to breathe. Wearing a mask over the nose and mouth while performing drilling, chipping or cutting concrete can prevent particles from entering the body.

Electrical and Wildfires: Welding, careless recreational smoking, equipment sparks or bad wiring can cause electrical fires. Contact emergency response teams and use fire extinguishers to prevent dispersal. Geothermal sites are often located on grasslands or near forests, making wildfires possible. Fire retardant building materials, such as doors, walls, and outdoor woodchips can prevent the fire from spreading. Contact emergency teams immediately to mitigate fires.

Welding and Cutting: Metal pipes comprise the geothermal underground systems. Risks associated with this activity are hot metal burns, ultraviolet light from arc welding and particles irritating the eye. Wear safety glasses, heavy gloves and cover exposed skin to decrease injury.

Personal Protective Equipment: This includes safety glasses, hard hats, respirators, gloves, durable pants and long sleeve shirts. To reduce falling injuries, use safety nets, a personal arrest system or guardrails when six feet or more above the ground. United States Department of Labor-Green Job Hazards: Geo-Thermal Energy

Transportation: Follow procedures to transport, use or dispose of hazardous materials and heavy equipment to decrease environment, employee, and patron risks. Hazardous material includes, but is not limited to benzene, mercury, radon, mud, solvents, oils, diesel and drilling additives.

  • Security: Fencing the site perimeter discourages trespassing and unapproved visitors. This will protect the resource and employees.
  • Safety signage: Post speed limits and risk areas heightens the awareness
  • Waste disposal: Trash burial is not permitted. Contain trash on site and then haul it to an approved landfill. Human waste from portable toilets is not to be treated on site nor buried.