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Returning to work for the renewable energy sector

The renewable energy sector has been impacted in a range of ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the lockdown, many construction sites were suspended and closed. Now, as the lockdown eases, firms are planning their return to site. It is essential that you inform your insurers of your plans to be back on site. You will also need to carry out necessary checks, test equipment, and follow government guidance upon your return. Be sure to test equipment before it is used operationally, and check that all related certifications are valid and in date.

As system checks are often carried out through offsite monitoring systems, remote working practice can be kept in place in order to support social distancing . Remote working, however, raises the risks associated with cybersecurity.

Turbines, for example, can be monitored by manufacturers or through a maintenance contract – there could be multiple people using monitoring systems from different locations. Indeed, there is growing scope for cyber as a risk which may not have been previously prioritised. Having a robust risk management plan for other businesses accessing your systems and the ability to check suppliers’ security is imperative at this time.

Anaerobic digestion has been the has encountered the most changes due to the pandemic. Some of these plants’ feedstock is based on food waste, largely from local authority collections, restaurants, pubs, and other hospitality outlets. During lockdown, food waste volumes reduced and their return is in question as concerns grow about the future of businesses that produce this food waste. Some might have to supplement food waste with agricultural waste, but to do this they would have to check the plant and manufacturers equipment to ensure that this is feasible. You would also need to let your insurer know about the feedstock being used as this could have repercussions on the plant and ultimately your insurance policy.

Adapting to a post COVID-19 reality

COVID-19 has identified a stronger need for renewables in the UK, particularly given greater cleanliness of air due to the lockdown. During a period of flight and travel restrictions, limited manufacturing, and store and office closures, the nation relied purely on renewable and nuclear energy to meet its energy needs. Known for its innovation and growth, the renewable energy sector could help substantially in the revitalisation of the economy if appropriate investments are made in sustainable jobs and energy sources..

Precautions

Like other industries, personal protective equipment (PPE) will be advised for the protection of staff in the renewable energy space. There will be a need, however, to carefully assess the risk and feasibility of PPE types due to the nature of the work. For example, you will need to assess whether PPE hampers visibility when working on engines or particular machinery.
PPE could also hinder an engineer’s ability to access confined spaces, such as turbines, and inside the masts.

Moving forward

New protocols and procedures relating to COVID-19 should now be factored into the induction process on site.

  • Implement social distance controls, amend polices and risk plans.
  • Assess technology and business continuity planning; don’t waste the opportunity to improve this. What benefits have you experienced from staff working from home? Build these improvements into future plans.
  • Review polices and current insurance; ensure your coverage robust and caters for changes to the way you work.
  • Speak to your insurance adviser and review your insurance policies.
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Take an in-depth look at the issues around returning to the workplace safely. This guide will help you identify your readiness to return to the workplace, and support you to develop and implement a plan.