Tips for Staying Safe on Site During a Thunderstorm

It’s always important to remember safety best practices when you’re working on the jobsite – and that includes thinking about how to adapt in cases of inclement weather, such as strong winds, heavy rains, and lightning strikes. OSHA provides a comprehensive guide to ensuring workers’ safety in the event of these conditions, particularly how workers should react when dealing with lightening exposure. Here are tips for staying safe during a thunderstorm while on the job:

Check National Weather Service Reports

Before beginning any outdoor work, construction teams should check the daily National Weather Service report as well as radio forecasts to understand any potential weather hazards the day may hold. Supervisors and workers are expected to monitor weather conditions throughout the day, including dark cloud formation and wind speeds, to better understand the possibility of a thunderstorm in order to potentially take necessary precautions. OSHA recommends employers reschedule jobs taking place during especially hazardous weather conditions.

Seek Nearby Shelter

During thunderstorms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends workers seek shelter in fully enclosed buildings with electrical wiring and plumbing. Workers should remain in shelter for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. In situations where access to buildings is limited, employers should guide workers to seek shelter in hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled up windows.

Reduce Exposure to Outdoor Risk

Lightning is most likely to strike the tallest object in a given area. Finding shelter should always be the first action during thunderstorms. However, if you find yourself still outside during a thunderstorm, follow NOAA’s recommendations by making sure to avoid isolated tall trees, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, rooftops, scaffolding or ladders. OSHA prohibits work on or from scaffolds, crane hoists, and on top of walls during storms or high winds. Additionally, avoid wiring, plumbing, and fencing, as lightning can travel along the metal. Make sure to get out of and away from bodies of water as well, which are excellent conductors of electricity. 

Follow Emergency Action Plan

Employers are required to have a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP) outlining the lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers. The EAP indicates how workers will be notified about unsafe working conditions, identifies locations and requirements for safe shelter, indicates proper response time for all workers in reaching shelter, and specifies approaches for suspending work activity. Employers should post information about lightning safety precautions at outdoor worksites and workers are expected to be trained in following EAP protocol.

For more OSHA information surrounding thunderstorm safety, click here.