About the author

Jill Replogle is a researcher-reporter for FairWarning.

10 comments to “Solar Installer’s Death Points to Job Hazards in a Growing, Green Industry”

  1. Tom Wilson

    Hi Tyler. I had SolarCity panels installed last February and the installation went well and looked as if all safety guidelines were followed. What I think happened was the safety rope was anchored in the back of the house and the panels were installed on the front roof. The installers body weight pulled the rope taught, which in turn squashed and dented the ridge vent in many places. I now have a roof leak at the peak, which I’m convinced is due to a mangled ridge vent at that spot. Does this sound plausible?

  2. Tyler Rose

    I’m an installer for SolarCity out of Cape Cod, MA.. A few months ago, My first day after training for several days in New York I had to pull broken panel and replace it on a homeowners house. I was working with the head of the installer division Mark McNamara when he told me “forget everything they told you in training. Pay attention to what I do to get better panel pay and be more efficient” than proceeded to climb onto the roof and begin tearing down the unit without any type of harness or fall safety equipment other than his “skater shoes and backwards GB Packers hat”. After we replaced the shattered panel (which the instal crew broke) we left and got beers on the company’s dime at dinos sports bar in Mashpee down the street from the job. I thought “This seems like a fun company” until I realized it’s run like a fraternity by a bunch of immature dudes with complete disregard for any form of safety.. I even took a video from the ground to show my friends what my first day on the job was like which I still have. This happens all the time, I have several recordings.. There is a “safety” person who travels massive distances in his territory, however all the salespeople in the area keep tabs on his location weather or not he’s been to their sites, and the officemanagers keep close tabs to keep instal crews on alert if he’s nearby.. So it’s a sham.. I’m 28 years old father to a 7 year old daughter and 3 year old son.. My lifes worth more than “panel pay”… be safe fellas!!!

  3. Louis

    Just came across this after looking to have an install done at my home in PA.
    I’m and EH&S professional with 20 years in the business. Behavior based safety is critical and happily becoming more widely accepted. It’s been a cornerstone of my work since I began. All the protocols and all the training to fill up a library and lifetime of classrooms will do nothing if the employee chooses not to follow the process. It’s one thing if the protocol has a catastrophic flaw.. it’s another altogether if it’s in place, tested over time, consistently updated to meet new conditions and the measures are not followed. Even the most conscientious of workers are prone due to external environmental and administrative pressures. It’s rarely a “macho thing” though that does influence the general mindset (zeitgeist). It’s the “what were you thinking at the time” is what’s important. Many employees recognize the value of their income to themselves and to those who depend on it. To a secondary degree they recognize the happiness (love, entertainment value, friendship) they bring to many around them. Whether it’s sharing a birthday with a daughter, spending time with an aging parent, watching the world series over beers. These are the immeasurable aspects of life-value which we are all guilty of undervaluing. It’s no small epiphany when you hear such changes in outlook after someone has a nearly fatal accident. That’s a key point to reinforce and follows a similar tactic to persuading a potential suicide attempt. That instant when the person decided to forgo a key protocol, venture too close to an edge, fail to note the locations of power lines; that is the moment when the person undervalues the impact of his life on others. This is the underpinning key to behavior based safety.. one that we’re only just beginning to fold into the theories and other process mantras which the experts tout.

  4. Randy

    I,m a union electrician working on my 3rd solar project in the California desert and if you are caught without your fall protection you are fired on the spot. We did have a brother die of heat stress a few weeks ago.

  5. Imelda Worstel

    Well said, but everyone needs to understand that adding Solar in their house is an purchase that should increase the actual value of their residence if / when they decide to sell. With the environment the way it is going we cannot dismiss any solution that supplies 100 % free energy at no cost to both the buyer and more notably the world!

  6. Chris

    Hans was a great friend and an incredibly kind person. May his death prevent other unnecessary deaths in the future.

  7. Arizona Solar Rebates

    Its true — it doesn’t matter what your business is, you have to follow the rules and frankly, most don’t.

  8. Dean Stroud

    It doesn’t matter what your trade is, if you are working above 6 to 7 feet Cal/OSHA and Fed/OSHA states (very clearly) you must be tied off…it’s the law. When an installer is under a deadline to complete the job and choose not wear a harness because it slows him/her down is when accidents usually happens. It is the employers responsibility to train their employees and enforce safety rules for their companies, and accidents like these may cease to exist.

  9. Kevin Jones

    You may want to search the Australian media websites about the deaths of four young insulation installers. These are being investigated by OHS regulators and coroners. There are marked similarities between the Californian solar energy initiative and an Australian scheme that was roundly criticized as poorly setup and badly administered.

  10. Mort

    I shudder to think that workers are relying on Cal/Osha to enforce safety on the job. Are any of these installation companies organized? Or are you aware of any ongoing union organizing in the field?

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