In May 2015, a crew in Bonita Springs, Florida, was installing roofing on a single-family home. The weather was cloudy with rain off and on, and the crew worked between rain showers. At around 3 in the afternoon, the four employees completed the installation and were leaving the roof when a bolt of lightning struck a 36-year-old roofer in the head. He was removed from the roof but was unresponsive. The other employees performed CPR until emergency responders arrived. He was transported to the hospital and died two days later from his injuries.
Waiting just 30 minutes after the storm before returning to work could have saved his life.
This kind of preventable workplace tragedy is why each summer, OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urge employers to train workers in summer weather safety
. This includes heat, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding and lightning.
When it comes to lightning, workers should not begin any task they cannot stop quickly if there are signs of thunderstorms. Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors!
If employers or workers hear thunder, even a distant rumble, everyone should get to a safe place immediately.
What steps can employers take to protect workers from the dangers of lightning?
- Check NOAA Weather Reports
Before beginning any outdoor work, employers and supervisors should check NOAA weather reports and radio forecasts for all weather hazards and plan work accordingly.
- Identify Shelter Locations
Employers and supervisors should know and tell workers which buildings to go to after hearing thunder or seeing lightning. NOAA recommends seeking out fully enclosed buildings with electrical wiring and plumbing. Workers should be told to remain in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. If safe building structures are not accessible, employers should guide workers to hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled up windows.
- Provide Lightning Safety Training
Employers should have an emergency action plan in place and train supervisors and workers on what to do when they hear thunder. This includes training on how to provide lightning safety warnings in sufficient time for everyone to reach a worksite’s safe shelters and take other appropriate precautions.
These simple steps could mean the difference between life and death. For more information, see the joint OSHA-NOAA lightning fact sheet
Mandy Edens is the director of OSHA’s Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management.