Perceived Risk and Response to the Wind Turbine Ice Throw Hazard: Comparing Community Stakeholders and Operations and Maintenance Personnel in Two Regions of Texas
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Risk managers who work directly with wind energy know that accumulations of ice on wind turbine blades pose a substantial risk to wind farm employees and a lesser extent to the general public. However, overall, the hazards of ice throw are not generally known to the public, as there has not been a significant event in the U.S. which has drawn any media attention. As we continue to install more and more turbines, the number of people exposed greatly increases, and it is only a matter of time before the industry suffers a severe incident or even a fatality. Thus, the goals of this research were threefold: 1) to understand the extent to which two at-risk groups—community stakeholders as well as operations and maintenance personnel at wind farms might differ in their perceived levels of risk to the ice throw hazard; 2) to understand the degree to which community stakeholders and operations and maintenance might differ on choosing measures of protection for their affected areas; and 3) to improve safety by identifying protective measures that all stakeholders—community citizens, wind farm employees, contractors, and land owners—are willing to undertake to mitigate their risk against the ice throw hazard which includes adopting measures to reduce their own risk toward the hazard, as well as, their community’s vulnerability toward the hazards and threat of ice throw from wind turbines. This research also makes a valuable contribution to the theoretical body of risk research with respect to a technological hazard for which little is known. This research found that the two groups differed on statistically significant variables for observed risk, perceived personal risk, risk to the community, levels of trust in safety leaders, best protective actions, and preferred warning systems; however, there was no statistical significance between the groups on perceived benefits of wind energy.