Report: Vestas Using Potentially Harmful Chemicals

Newspaper Says 10 Employees Developed Skin Allergy, Some Fired

The wind turbine company Vestas is accused of using potentially harmful chemicals, according to a report in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

The newspaper said a two-month investigation also showed that at least 10 employees at the Vestas facility in Windsor have been injured by an epoxy resin used in the blade manufacturing process.

Exposed employees developed a skin allergy called dermatitis, which can be painful, causing swollen, red and itchy skin, the Coloradoan reported.

The Windsor plant has also been cited by U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration for numerous violations related to the chemicals and lack of training that contributed to workers' injuries, the newspaper reported.

Vestas issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying the OSHA violations had nothing to do with epoxy exposure and the company corrected the problem.

"Employee health and safety is Vestas’ top priority," the Denmark-based company said.

Vestas said it provides employees with extensive training and protective equipment to prevent their exposure to epoxy resin.

"Employees who follow Vestas’ safety procedures, explained in Vestas’ extensive new-employee training in Windsor, and in its ongoing safety courses, have a very low risk of developing dermatitis," said the statement by Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines.

"Two employees at the Windsor blade factory have been released, because their [dermatitis] conditions would not allow them to safely continue to work in this factory," Vestas said. The company said it only terminated the employees after spending 18 months trying to mitigate their epoxy exposure or to "find other work for them within Vestas."

"Basically, they couldn't do their jobs, because it was unhealthy to be there (in the factory) for them," Vestas spokesman Andrew Longeteig told TheDenverChannel.com. "We tried to find a place for them, but they were unable to continue working at the factory because of their dermatitis."

Rusty Estes, 29, said he worked at the Vestas plant for more than two years before the company fired him in 2010 because of his dermatitis, the Coloradoan reported.

"Vestas pretty much kicked me to the curb, and I am losing everything. It actually hurt my marriage," Estes told the Coloradoan.

Estes, who was paid $10,000 in worker's compensation for his medical bills, said he decided to go public with his story in hopes that the injuries at the plant will stop and to empower others who have been injured at the plant by harmful materials, the Coloradoan reported.

Longeteig said he did not know if employees terminated because of their dermatitis were paid severance.

Read more about the report in today's Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper.