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OSHA, NOAA release fact sheet on lightning


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Washington – Lightning is a frequently overlooked occupational hazard, according to a new fact sheet from OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Employees who work outdoors in open spaces, on or adjacent to tall objects, or near explosives or conductive materials are vulnerable to lightning strikes, the fact sheet states. At-risk industries include construction, agriculture, telecommunications and landscaping.

Employers of outdoor workers should include in their emergency action plans a safety protocol for lightning, according to the fact sheet. This includes information about how workers will be notified about lightning safety warnings and identified locations for safe shelters. Employers also should post safety information about lightning at outdoor worksites and train workers on following the EAP.

Before outdoor work begins, employers should check NOAA reports at or radio forecasts for inclement weather. Consider rescheduling work to avoid hazardous weather, OSHA recommends.

When working outdoors, supervisors and workers should keep track of weather conditions. Look for growing wind speeds and dark clouds, which can indicate an approaching storm. Immediately move to a safe place if you hear thunder, even if the thunder is distant, the resource states. Move to a fully enclosed building that has electrical wiring and plumbing, which will conduct the electricity in the event of a lightning strike, and stay in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last round of thunder. If a building is unavailable, move to a hard-topped metal vehicle with rolled-up windows.

If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm, follow NOAA’s recommendations:

  • Avoid tall objects, open areas, water, wiring, plumbing, fencing and metal objects.
  • Move to a dense area of small trees that are surrounded by taller trees, or a low-lying area.
  • Do not seek shelter in sheds, tents or porches.

For the past 30 years, an average of 50 people have died annually from lightning strikes, the fact sheet notes. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from rainfall.

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