Summer Weather Hazards: Lightning Safety
Warmer temperatures bring unpredictable weather. Afternoon thunderstorms become regular occurrences and, with them, the risk of lightning-related injuries increases. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), lightning strikes the U.S. approximately 25 million times annually—killing an average of 50 Americans and injuring hundreds of others. Unfortunately, those who work outdoors in open spaces; on or near tall objects; or with conductive materials are often at greater risk. That’s why CTEH is shedding some light on how to keep workers safe from this summer weather hazard:
Develop a plan: Management or on-the-ground supervisors should create a lightning safety plan and train their workers on how to execute it. While each plan will differ depending on the industry and job site, standard components may include evacuation protocols, shelter options, proper first-aid techniques and nearby hospital or emergency room routes.
Regularly check weather reports: Awareness is key. Outdoor workers should always check weather conditions before reporting to or while on duty. If thunderstorm conditions exist, they should not start any projects or activities that cannot be quickly stopped.
Find shelter: As the NWS says, “When thunder roars, go indoors!” As soon as workers hear thunder, they should make their way to a safe, enclosed shelter. Substantial buildings offer the greatest protection. Small outdoor structures (e.g., pavilions, sheds, dugouts, etc.) do not. If a safe structure is not accessible, workers should take shelter in a hard-topped vehicle with the windows rolled up or crouch low with as little of their bodies touching the ground as possible.
Be vigilant even indoors: Threats remain even when individuals are safely sheltered indoors. Workers are advised to avoid touching wiring, electrical equipment (e.g., radios, television), plumbing or concrete floors and walls. Because electrical charges can linger even after storms have passed, experts suggest waiting at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before resuming outdoor activities.
If caught outside, avoid hazards: Workers should stay away from anything tall or high (e.g., utility poles, ladders, scaffolding), large equipment, heavy machinery or open areas like fields. They should never touch surfaces that conduct electricity. If caught outdoors in a thunderstorm, the NWS recommends groups spread out to decrease the risk of multiple causalities and “increase the chances that someone could get help if a person is struck.”
Act quickly: Victims can survive lightning strikes. However, they will need immediate medical attention. Individuals should first call 9-1-1. If they’ve received proper training, they should then assess the victim to determine if CPR or an Automated External Defibrillator is needed. If possible, victims should also be moved to a safe place to avoid the threat of another lightning strike.
Have questions about how to protect outdoor workers from weather threats? Contact CTEH at 501-801-8500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.