Lightning Safety

Lightning Safety

When Lightning Strikes

lightning-safetyLightning kills about 80 people in the U.S. each year and injures hundreds. In most places, lightning hits most often in late afternoon in spring and summer, and it can hit the same place many times. Lightning strike causes heart stoppage, burns, nervous system damage, and other health problems. Some of these you may not notice until months after a
lightning strike. Statistics have identified lightning strikes can be about two to three miles apart from each other during a lightning storm. Lightning can strike as far as 6 miles away from a storm system. Other data includes most dangerous times for strikes are just before or right after a major storm. More secure areas (structures) are areas that have some type of grounding.

If you hear thunder and see lightning, act right away – especially if you count 30 seconds or less between the thunder and lightning. If the thunder gets louder or you see the lightning more often, the storm is getting closer. (Sometimes lightning will strike out of a sunny sky 10 miles or more from a storm.) Lightning hits tall things, metal, and water – or a person standing on open ground or a roof. Every worksite should have a plan for what to do in a lightning storm, and this should be conveyed to all workers.

If a storm is near DO NOT:

  • Be the tallest object in an area.
  • Stand out in the open.
  • Stand under a tree. (If the tree is hit, you can be too.)
  • Stand in a gazebo or open shelter, like a baseball dugout or bus shelter.
  • Stand next to metal objects – pipes or light poles or door frames or metal fences or communication towers– indoors or out.
  • Stay next to water – ponds or running water – indoors or out. (Do not take a shower.)
  • Use plug‐in power tools or machines – indoors or out.
  • Use a plug‐in telephone (or a computer with a modem) – indoors or out.

If a storm is near DO:

  • Get into an enclosed building – like a house or shopping center or school or office building.
  • Get into a car, van, truck, or bus with the windows closed all the way. Do not touch the doors or other metal inside.

Open cabs on heavy equipment will not protect you. A convertible with the top up will not protect you. Rubber tires will not protect you. If you are out in the open and have nowhere to go, squat down with your feet together and only let your feet touch the ground. Put your hands over your ears (to protect against noise). That way, you are so low the lightning may hit something else. And by not touching much of the ground, you have less chance that the lightning will move across the ground to you. Do not lie flat on the ground.

Each 5 seconds after a lightning bolt is seen before thunder is heard represents approximately one mile. Count to five and hear thunder, the strike is one mile away. 30 seconds is then approximately 6 miles away. Whenever the count is 30 seconds or less, all personnel should seek a safe shelter. Work may recommence when the duration is again 30 seconds, indicating the lightning is six miles distant. Supervisor discretion is advised in all lightning situations.

A victim does not stay electrified. You can touch him/her right away. If the victim has no pulse, try CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If there’s a portable defibrillator, follow the instructions. But be careful about staying in the open in a storm to take care of the victim – or you can get hit too. If you can, move the victim to a shelter.