Lightning Safety Toolbox Talk: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

Lightning Safety

By Amy Bernstein, Employee Safety Specialist



There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Remember, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many lightning deaths and injuries.

Lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times each year. Although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of the year. Lightning kills 20 or more people in the United States annually, and hundreds more are severely injured.


Lightning Safety on the Job

Some workers are at a greater risk than others, including these occupations:

  • Logging
  • Explosive handling or storage
  • Heavy equipment operation
  • Plumbing and pipe fitting
  • Construction and building maintenance
  • Farming and field labor
  • Telecommunications field repair
  • Power utility field repair


Five Lightning Safety Tips

1. When thunderstorms threaten, don’t start anything you can’t quickly stop.

Pay attention to daily weather forecasts, so you know what to expect during the day. Also, pay attention to early signs of thunderstorms: high winds, dark clouds, rain, distant thunder or lightning. If these conditions exist, do not start a task you can’t quickly stop.


2. Know your company’s lightning safety warning program

Businesses that have high-risk functions should have a formal lightning warning policy that meets two basic requirements:

  • Lightning danger warnings can be issued in time for everyone to get to a safe location.
  • Access to a safe place.


3. Assess your lightning risk

During thunderstorms, no place outside is safe. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike. Stop what you are doing and seek safety in a substantial building or a hard-topped metal vehicle.


4. Know what objects and equipment to avoid during a thunderstorm

  • Stay off and away from anything tall or high, including rooftops, scaffolding, utility poles and ladders.
  • Stay off and away from large equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, track loaders and tractors.
  • Do not touch materials or surfaces that can conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, metal equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes and plumbing.
  • Leave areas with explosives or munitions.


5. Learn what to do if a co-worker is struck by lightning

Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge, are safe to touch and need urgent medical attention. Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death for fatalities. Some deaths can be prevented if the victim receives proper first aid immediately.

  • Call 911 and perform CPR if the person is unresponsive or not breathing.
  • Use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available.


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