with Roberto Cardoso (Sungrow)
In preparation for our Virtual Mini-Conference about Safe & Sound Operations on 25 August, we had a chat with one of the expert speakers on the panel about physical safety. Roberto Cardoso, Head of Service - Americas at Sungrow, shared his insights on the importance of safety, the factors that play a role, and what asset owners themselves can do in relation to this topic.
Director of Service
What are the most important factors that play a role in the safe & sound operations of PV systems?
“Safety is one of the most important elements when we work on PV systems because our people have the potential to be exposed to dangerous and unsafe environments. Nowadays, safety is included in the equipment’s design and related activities in the field. The equipment comes with different types of sensing devices that protect the equipment as well as the people working with them. There is also more and more emphasis on safety training and procedures and regulations that help maintain safe operations in the field.”
Why is this topic important?
“We, as leaders of a company, need to provide a safe environment to our people and the people around them as much as we can. This topic is very important because an accident can involve not only a financial loss, but more importantly - a loss of life. We need to prioritize training on work and safety procedures as well as decision-making skills, so that our people know how to make sound decisions in the field and - in the heat of the moment - to ensure that nobody is put at risk. At the end of the day, everybody wants to go home to their families without any accidents or incidents.”
What do you see as the most important development around this topic in North America?
“Products and technology are evolving very quickly. Nowadays, our equipment has sensors that monitor things like when the temperatures are high inside, when somebody opens the door when the unit is running, when some components have been dropped during transportation, etc. All this information helps us not only with the maintenance of the unit, but also with the safety of our people. It’s more than training and smart equipment. Today, we are also more conscious about external conditions that affect people and can create unsafe conditions, such as extreme weather, fatigue, complacency, lack of breaks, and rushing. It’s not always the most dangerous activities that generate most of the accidents. Things like rushing to meet a project deadline can make matters worse. “
In your role, how is your work related to safety & prevention?
“My role is to continuously monitor our systems to make sure we have all the foundations covered, such as training, documentation, and procedures. I am always focused on empowering our people to stop when they see unsafe situations or conditions. I also emphasize to my team that they pay attention to when they are in a rush or in a state of mind that can create an unsafe situation.”
What are the differences you observe in North America with other regions that Sungrow is active in?
“I am in charge of the Americas for Sungrow, and I have seen very good developments with respect to safety in other countries as well. Most of these developments are mainly in the utility-scale segment. Many of these projects are run by global corporations that bring with them their culture of health and safety, which pushes other regions to develop. There is still some work to be done in countries where there is not a large solar industry, and they are in remote locations. I’ve found that the most difficult part is to change people’s mentality about safety. Policies and manuals are great, but safety is not only about safety systems and procedures. It’s a consciousness and awareness.”
What is your key advice for owners on this topic?
“Most of the safety incidents that I have seen in North America have occurred during the construction phase. This is mainly because of the larger amount of people involved during that phase. In the large sites where I didn’t see any accidents, it was because they already had a strong safety culture on site. People were continuously talking about, and involved in, safety procedures and meetings, even when they were behind schedule at some moments. Other accidents that I have seen after the construction phase, were related to complacency. I would advise owners to build a strong safety culture within their organization, and focus on the state of mind of their people since most of the accidents seem to happen when we least expect it.”
To learn more from Roberto and other safety experts from PVEL, Silicon Ranch, and Staubli, join us on 25 August, online!