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Lightning Safety Toolbox Talk

In this toolbox talk, learn the dangers of lightning on the construction site and how to avoid them.

Lightning Safety Talk

Did you know that each year there is an average of 25 million lightning strikes? That is a crazy amount of lighting strikes that can happen at any hour—day or night. Lightning is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and proper precautions should be taken.

Working a job like construction, which requires you to be outdoors and using machinery puts you at higher risk of being struck by lightning. Proper planning and attention should be paid to the weather and what the forecast looks like. Continuing to work in unsafe situations is only putting employees and yourself at risk.

Have A Lightning Safety Plan In Place

All employees should be aware of what the protocol is for when there is lightning in the area. That way there isn’t any type of confusion when the time comes to stop working and take shelter. You should never wait until the lightning begins to hit, instead, proper shelter should be taken prior. There should be a designated area that everyone knows to report to when lightning occurs.

Lightning Fatalities Statistics

It is important to know what the dangers can occur when you work a job that lightning could interfere with. Employees are more apt to abide when they understand what the risks and dangers are.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), from 2006-2016, there was a record of 326 reports made for lightning fatalities. 59 of the victims were female and 257 were male. Some interesting findings from the report include:

  • There is more than just jobsite concern for lightning. Some of the most recorded lightning strike victims were: fishing, camping, boating, beach activities, golf, and soccer.

  • The majority of the deaths recorded from lightning strikes were in the months June, July, and August.

  • Waiting till the last minute to seek shelter can be very dangerous, in most cases of being struck, the individuals were trying to get to shelter.

5 Lightning Myths Debunked

You have probably heard many stories about how lightning strikes, but many might just be myths. People will hear information and run with it, without checking the facts. Let’s discuss 5 of the most common ones that you can hear, knowing the truth could save your life.

1. You are safer inside

You may hear that if you are inside of your home that you can’t be struck by lightning. Although you are safer inside your home than outside of it, you can still get struck by lightning if you are not being smart. You should always try to avoid anything in your home that conducts electricity, when there is lightning outside. Things in your home can get struck by lightning as well, such as:

  • Television

  • Computer

  • Corded phones

  • Metal doors

  • And any other electrical devices you may have

2. You are safe under a tree

When you are trying to seek shelter outside, make sure to choose wisely what you shelter in or under. Many people believe that they are safe getting under a tree. There are a number of instances that lightning strikes trees, especially taller ones standing alone. It is not advised to seek shelter that way.

3. Rubber tires keep you safe in your car

When you are in your car during lightning, it is believed that the rubber tires are keeping you safe from being struck. While some truth may be found in that statement, the real thing keeping you safe is the metal frame of the car. The metal on the frame of your car is acting as a faraday cage surrounding you.

4. Lightning doesn’t strike twice

You have probably heard it said time and time again that lightning will never strike in the exact same spot twice. That is completely not true at all, there are many instances that lightning strikes the same spot. You can use these things as examples:

  • Metal buildings

  • Tall trees

  • Cell phone towers

5. Lighting only happens with clouds and rain

People will look up into the sky and assume that since there aren't clouds or rain, there will not be any lightning. That is not an indication of whether or not lightning will occur. Strikes of lightning do not have to be exactly where the storm is occurring. Reports have been made of lightning strikes happening miles away from where the storm is actually occurring at.

Lightning on a construction site.

Where Is Lightning Most Likely To Strike On A Construction Site?

As a general rule of thumb, think about the tallest areas in your worksite, those are most likely the areas that will get struck by lighting. Some examples of materials, heavy equipment, or supplies that can be at risk are:

What If You Are Caught Outside During a Lightning Storm?

You should always seek shelter at the first signs of thunder and stay put for the full duration of the storm. However, there may be an unfortunate situation where you find yourself stuck outside during a storm with lightning. All employees should be educated on things that can be done to better protect themselves from injury or fatalities. Here are some of NOAA’s recommendations:

  1. Avoid any water

  2. Find an area that you can lay low in (ditches or valleys)

  3. Try not to stay in an open area

  4. Never lay down flat on the ground

  5. Don’t shelter under an isolated tree or utility pole

  6. Never find shelter under heavy equipment or scaffolding

  7. Stay clear of the tallest objects in the area

Training and Education On Lightning

All employees should be trained and knowledgeable about what to do in a storm and how to seek shelter during lightning. The employer of a worksite should provide this area of training to all of the employees that work there. You never know who is going to be around when a situation occurs, when everyone has the proper training there isn’t room for confusion.

Timing is just as important as knowing what to do. With proper training, they will know when it is time to seek shelter and not get caught at the last minute. As mentioned above, a lot of people who were struck by lightning were trying to seek shelter at the time of the incident.

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