By Scott Magleby
Lightning is likely to strike the tallest objects in a given area —
you should not be the tallest object
As we approach the summer months and we work in locations where the weather changes in an instant, I just wanted to bring to mind some safety tips to hopefully help us prevent long term disruptions that can be caused be severe weather.
Preparing Your Construction Site for Severe Weather
Start with weather awareness:
- Make habit to regularly check short and long range forecasts
- Last minute preparations can prevent damage to equipment and lost productivity
If signs of approaching thunderstorms occur, workers should not begin any task they cannot quickly stop
Proper planning and safe practices can easily increase lightning safety when working outdoors
Hard to Predict and Prepare For Weather
- High Winds – Can appear without warning. Without protection, high winds can topple walls, scaffolding and equipment.
- Thunderstorms – Lightning, high winds and heavy rain usually occur without much warning or time to prepare.
Getting your job site ready for severe weather means you only need minor last-minute changes to adequately prepare the area in the event conditions worsen. With adequate preparation and planning, you can avoid injuries and financial losses on your sites.
As we all can attest too, lightning is a dangerous natural force. Annually in the United States, cloud-to-ground lightning occurs 20 to 25 million times and over 300 people are struck by lightning. During the past 30 years, about 50 people, on average, have been killed by lightning strikes every year, and many more suffer permanent disabilities.
According to the OSHA NOAA fact sheet, precautions should be taken to prevent worker exposure to lightning. Employers should recognize lightning as an occupational hazard. Supervisors and workers at outdoor worksites should take lightning safety seriously. Lightning is unpredictable and can strike outside the heaviest rainfall areas or even up to 10 miles from any rainfall.
During a lightning storm the following procedures should be taken for you safety:
- The site should provide a protected area away from trees and metal equipment for workers to take cover in.
- Lightning often strikes workers who go back outside too soon.
- Employees should remain in an enclosed area until 30 minutes after last hearing thunder.
- If your workers lack an enclosed building, instruct them to stay inside a hard-topped vehicle until the storm passes.
In 2016, across the United States, high winds caused 23 deaths and 87 injuries. Along with the human toll, property damage from winds totaled $95.8 million. The data illustrate how severe winds are in causing loss of property and life.
During storms or high winds, OSHA prohibits: