Thunderstorm & Lightning Hazards

Approximately 50 people, on average, are killed by lightning strikes each year and others suffering permanent disabilities, such as severe burns. Thunderstorms and lightning are most likely to develop on hot, humid days. Historically, lightning fatalities have occurred between April and September, with most of the strike events happening in June, July and August.

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, get to a safe place immediately. Thunderstorms always include lightning. Lightning may occur up to 10 miles away from any rainfall.

Ways to Be Struck by Lightning

  • Direct Strike – A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. Most often, direct strikes occur to people who are in open areas.
  • Side Flash – A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near a person and a portion of the current jumps from taller object to the person.
  • Ground Current – When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface.
  • Conduction – Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.

Monitor the Weather

When working outside:

  • Continuously monitor weather conditions.
  • Watch for darkening clouds and increasing wind speeds.
  • Monitor the internet or weather apps for emergency notifications.

Seek Shelter

When a lightning storm threatens, take these precautions:

  • Seek shelter inside a building whenever possible. Avoid open shelters like pavilions or porches.
  • Once inside, stay away from open windows, sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, appliances, electric boxes and outlets.
  • If you’re in a vehicle, stay there and roll up the windows.

Stuck Outside?

If you’re caught outside, and there is no shelter or no time to seek adequate shelter:

  • Crouch down with your feet close together.
  • Keep your hands on your knees and lower your head.
  • Get as low as possible without touching your hands or knees to the ground, and DO NOT LIE DOWN.

Download the printable PDF and Recording Form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.

Thunderstorm Safety

Originally published on 04/11/2018

When there is thunder, there is lightning. Any outdoor job increases the risk of becoming a lightning victim. Dismissing the danger of storms when on a construction site can be detrimental. Lightning kills 10 percent of the people it strikes. The 90 percent who survive often suffer lifelong deliberating health consequences.

Here are a few guidelines for protecting workers from death and injury in thunderstorms:

  • Create a Lightning Safety Policy:  Add a section on lightning safety for construction crews to the safety manual. Construction workers may have a tendency to ignore the dangers of lightning, so insist they promptly follow the measures recommended when a thunderstorm approaches the jobsite.
  • Keep an Eye on the Sky:  Awareness of changing weather conditions is the first line of defense. Make sure your crew is aware of the person responsible for watching the weather reports before arriving at the job each day. Weather alert apps for smart phones keep workers advised of impending thunderstorms well in advance.
  • React Promptly to Weather Advisories:  Resist the temptation to finish the job in progress before taking shelter. Do not wait until you see lightning or rain. By the time you hear the thunder, you are already in striking distance of the lightning – even if the storm appears several miles away.
  • Unplug Equipment:  Have workers unplug any electrical tools, and stow them quickly out of the way.
  • Take Shelter in a Building:  Get all employees into a safe shelter. Close all doors and windows. Stay in the center of the structure, away from windows, exterior doors, electrical wiring and plumbing. NEVER take shelter in an open-sided building. Avoid small shelters, sheds and storage buildings. They provide little protection from lightning.
  • Take Shelter in a Vehicle:  If there is not a safe building at the site, have workers stay in their pickups or hard-topped cars during the storm. Do not park near trees, electrical poles, metal fences, scaffolding or other tall objects. Avoid rolling down windows, touching electronic equipment like the radio or leaning on the metal doors of the vehicle. Golf carts, ATVs, plastic or fiberglass body cars, convertible automobiles and open excavation equipment are NOT safe from lightning.
  • Remove Metal:  Contrary to myth, metal does not attract lightning. However, when struck by lightning, metal objects may cause severe burns. Have your workers remove tool belts, metal hard hats, safety harnesses and any other metallic objects they are wearing.
  • When Lightning Strikes:  Call 9-1-1 immediately if lightning strikes a crew member. If breathing or heartbeat has stopped, CPR-certified employees should give aid until professional help arrives. It is a myth that lightning victims carry a charge after the strike – they are safe to handle. Have fire extinguishers on the job site – especially if you’re working on a wood-framed structure.

Download a recording form here.