Help reduce risks during lightning storms

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lightning is one of the most underrated weather safety concerns, posing a greater risk to human life than hurricanes or tornadoes. It is important that employers and workers understand the dangers of lightning and the best ways to stay safe.

In America, lightning strikes the ground 25 million times each year, and its path can be heated to five times hotter than the sun’s surface. One ground strike can produce up to 1 billion volts of electricity, and the air inside a strike can rise up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Given the immense power of lightning, it is essential to know the warning signs. Dark clouds, rain, and strong winds may indicate the possibility of cloud-to-ground lightning. While many lightning-related injuries and deaths occur at the start of a storm, the moments after are also particularly dangerous. Once thunder stops, the threat of being struck diminishes, but could still continue to exist for more than a half hour. Lightning hazards may even persist once skies have cleared.

 The following tips from NOAA can help to reduce injuries:

• You are in danger if the amount of time between lightning and thunder is less than 30 seconds
• Stay away from high, open, and conductive places and small structures. Some examples include: towers, water, metal fences, flag and light poles, open fields, and lone trees
• Buildings that are large and enclosed tend to offer more safety from lightning than smaller structures
• If inside a building during a storm, refrain from the following activities: talking on the phone, hand and dish washing, and showering. Avoid touching conductive objects like window frames, plumbing, wiring, and metal doors
• Metal vehicles that are completely enclosed with the windows shut usually offer safe shelter during a lightning storm
• Have a lightning action plan when coordinating outdoor events. Be sure to watch the weather and evacuate guests when necessary. Print lightning warning signs, safety information, and the action plan in flyers and programs. Distribute these throughout the event location
• Lightning victims do not carry a charge and are safe to touch. The faster these individuals receive treatment, the better their chances for recovery 
• If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 and begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation immediately. If the victim has no pulse, administer cardiac compressions. When the weather is cold and wet, reduce the risk of hypothermia by placing a protective layer between the ground and victim

Train crews that work outside to be prepared for storms that may produce lightning. Educate workers on lightning risks and safety precautions, and provide appropriate first aid kits and other safety supplies.

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