Lightning Safety

During the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 75 people per year in the United States. While documented lightning injuries in the U.S. average about 300 per year, undocumented injuries are likely much higher. It is important to pay attention to the daily weather forecasts, so you know what to expect during the day. Also, pay attention to early signs of thunderstorms, to include:

  • High Winds
  • Dark Clouds
  • Rain
  • Distant Thunder and Lightning

Do not start any new task that you cannot quickly stop. Assess the risk and take precautions. During thunderstorms, no place outside is safe, but you can minimize your risk by assessing the lighting threat and taking appropriate actions.

Count the number of seconds between the lightning flash until you hear the thunder. If it is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within 6 miles of you.

Injuries and Other Hazards

The ways in which lightning can injure or kill people are as follows:

  • A direct strike usually results in cardiac arrest and/or stoppage of breathing. If the current passes through the heart or the brain, death may occur.
  • A side flash may occur when the body of a person provides an alternate or parallel path for the current.
  • Conducted current from a lightning flash or strike may range from a tingling shock to a massive current diverted from a poorly grounded utility pole through the power grid system.
  • Step voltage radiates out through the ground from a struck tree or utility pole affecting any person or animal close to the pole. Many livestock deaths are attributed to this affect.
  • Fires, fallen trees or poles, and wires, are other hazards which are secondary effects that also cause injuries.

Objects and equipment to avoid during thunderstorms:

  • Stay off and away from anything tall or high, including rooftops, scaffolding, utility poles, ladders, trees, and heavy equipment.
  • Do not touch materials or surfaces that can conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, metal equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes, and plumbing.
  • Avoid standing in a group of people. Stay several yards away from each other.
  • Immediately leave areas with explosives or munitions.

Avoid unsafe shelters

Unless specifically designed to be lightning safe, small structures do little, if anything, to protect occupants from lightning. May small open shelters on athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadside picnic areas, school yards, etc. are not designed to protect people from lightning. Avoid small wooden, vinyl, or metal sheds during thunderstorms, as they offer little or no protection from lightning.

If a co-worker is struck by lightning, understand that the victim does not carry any electrical charge. Call 911 immediately. If the victim’s heart is stopped, or he/she has stopped breathing, immediately administer CPR.

There are a few things you can do to prepare and avoid lightning incidents:

  • Have a weather radio or other notification system in place.
    • Designate a responsible person to monitor weather conditions and notify others.
  • Have an Emergency Action Plan in place.
    • Suspend activities, evacuate people, monitor conditions, resume activities.
    • Identify safe locations beforehand.
  • Train employees on emergency action procedures beforehand.

Lightening SafetyLightening Safety