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Lightning safety

September 25, 2016

A lightning strike happens faster than the blink of an eye. And just that quickly, lives can be changed.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 400 people are struck by lightning every year in the United States. Of those, between 55 and 60 die and hundreds suffer permanent neurological disabilities.

A real danger

There is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm. NOAA warns that if you can hear thunder, you’re in danger of a lightning strike. If you find yourself outside during a thunderstorm and can’t get indoors, NOAA recommends the following:

  • Stay away from open areas.
  • Keep away from tall, isolated trees, towers or utility poles, as lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area.
  • Avoid metal conductors such as fences or wires. Although lightning isn’t attracted by metal, it can travel long distances through it.
  • Don’t stand among a group of people – your odds of being struck may actually increase.

Staying safe

Outdoor workers need to stay vigilant for lightning. Supervisors should make sure a lightning safety plan is in place to direct workers where to go. In addition, ensure the plan allows enough time for workers to reach a safe area. Monitor the weather in advance, and postpone outdoor work if the weather becomes dangerous.

The safest place to be during a lightning storm is inside a fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches will not protect workers from lightning, NOAA cautions. If a building isn’t available, the best option is getting inside a hard-topped metal vehicle and closing all the windows. Cell phones are safe to use during storms.