“Safety at work is our number one priority,” says Igor Zupan, director of R&D in the wind power division at ELAN.
The Slovenian-based company ELAN is most known for its ski production. With Ingemar Stenmark, one of the world’s most successful skiers ever, holding the record for the most World Cup wins in alpine skiing, all achieved on the ELAN skis, and their innovation of shaped carving skies, ELAN positioned itself as one of the best ski manufacturers in the world. ELAN was recognized as the most innovative sports brand by Plus X Award in 2012 and 2015. Due to its success, ELAN has been constantly expanding its business and is now a global brand for technical sports equipment and sailing yachts, with a revenue of 85 million Euros and more than 800 employees. It is also one of the largest and strongest manufacturers of technically advanced composite components for the wind power industry, important supplier and R&D development partner to Siemens Gamesa Off-Shore Wind Power division.
Wind power division
Every week, two to three housings for wind turbines, each 12 meters long, with a diameter of 6 meters and weighting about 9 tons, are dispatched from ELAN site. Four trucks are needed for transportation of all the parts for one housing. Approximately 10 times per year the highway needs to be partially closed due to the loading of trucks with their mandrel boxes, which can be from 50 meters up to 100 meters long. They manufacture more than 10.000 root segments per year, each consisting of 70 to 90 layers of glass fibre sheets, which are then transported to blade production facilities to various areas of Denmark, England, China, Morocco and other parts of the world.
The manufacturing process
The production area of the wind power division spreads over 10.000 square meters. It is located in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, offering a breath-taking view of the Slovenian Alps. The composite production requires attention of all the workers since sheets of fibres need to be carefully impregnated with resin in order to achieve the right mechanical properties required for proper function of composite parts. Hand lay-up, meaning that the resin is applied by a person using a brush or roller, is the most common application technique, as it requires the least amount of equipment. At ELAN it is used only for production of root segments. However, due to direct exposure of their workers to resin components, they are developing highly industrialized closed moulding infusion technology. On the other hand, for composite parts of wind turbine housing, ELAN uses polyester resins where VOC emissions can generally occur. That is also why ELAN, for years, has been using healthier and environmentally friendlier vacuum infusion.
Worker safety at the forefront
During the production of composites, some of the workers are exposed to resin components, to components in sprays used for dry fibre lay-up or to glass fibre dust produced by finishing work. All major ingredients of composite products are irritants as well as occupational allergens. At the same time, skin exposure to glass fibres may cause irritation. Therefore, exposed parts of workers’ bodies need to be protected from irritation and allergy triggers. “Safety at work is our number one priority,” says Igor Zupan, director of R&D in the wind power division at ELAN.
With this in mind, material safety data sheet of individual products in service with ELAN are carefully taken into account. Additionally, on-the-job hazards and risks assessments at the workplace as well as measurements to control exposure are carried out on a regular basis. Simultaneously, ELAN took considerable effort to select the most suitable coverall solution for its workers. They found it with DuPont™ Tyvek® 600 Plus and DuPont™ Tyvek® 500 Xpert protective coveralls. According to Igor Zupan, the main reasons for collaborating with DuPont are: “their technical expertise, knowledge, proper trainings as well as their tips to dress and undress safely with DuPont’s protective clothing.” He added that DuPont is a world-known producer of protective garments one can rely on: “Their certified protection coveralls are in compliance with European regulations. Our workers, who spend almost their entire shift dressed in Tyvek® protective coveralls, are satisfied with those solutions, which is one of the most important criteria at ELAN”. As Branka Abram, one of the workers specializing in laminate layup for housing production, explains, the comfortable Tyvek® coveralls protect her skin from sticky products she is exposed to at work.
The partnership between ELAN and DuPont was established in 2010 when ELAN started using DuPont™ Tyvek® coveralls. As the result of user satisfaction with the material and level of protection, a year later ELAN equipped their workers with DuPont’s accessories DuPont™ Tyvek® 500 Sleeve model PS32LA as well as DuPont™ Tyvek® 500 Shoe cover model POS0 and in 2013 with DuPont™ Tyvek® 500 Trousers. Thanks to the solid partnership with DuPont, ELAN can stay on the safe side and secure a safe working environment for their workers.