Maintaining roads throughout the year involves a lot of time spent outdoors. And while a number of weather hazards may present themselves over the course of the year, lightning is often overlooked. In fact, lightning is officially considered to be an occupational hazard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Thunder is caused by lightning strikes. At the first rumble of thunder or flash of lightning, you should be on your way to seeking shelter. Shelter can be any enclosed building with plumbing or wiring throughout, or a metal vehicle with a metal roof. Anyone seeking shelter from lightning should not return outside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder was heard, per OSHA guidelines.
But why is lightning such a hazard? And why should you take measures to protect yourself while on the job?
1. Lightning is unpredictable.
While the chances of being struck by lightning for any given person is fairly low, the majority of people struck are either outdoor workers or recreationists. Often, people who are struck have not taken shelter quick enough (at the first sign of thunder or lightning) or have returned outside too soon.
2. Lightning can be life-threatening.
If a person is struck, they can experience cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and/or burns. A lightning victim will not hold a charge from the lightning strike, and should be assisted as quickly as possible. While standing/working near others, current can travel through the surface from one person to another. Therefore, it is crucial to seek shelter in your work vehicles or inside a building as quickly as possible. Secondary hazards of lightning include fires, fallen trees, and fallen power lines.
3. Lightning can strike miles away from areas of rainfall in a thunderstorm.
A worker does not have to be “in” the storm, to be at risk of being struck. This is why seeking shelter at the first sign of lightning or thunder is crucial, even if just a distant rumble is heard. Situational awareness regarding the weather should be maintained at any given time. Likely, if a crew is working on a roadway, they will already be on the lookout for rainfall. When there are signs of a thunderstorm forming, like darkening skies and windy conditions, do not start jobs that cannot be quickly stopped. Or, start wrapping up the job at hand.
Wherever you are, lightning safety is not something to take lightly. Keep yourself and your coworkers safe from danger. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!” Even if “indoors” is your maintenance vehicle.
Get notifications of lightning in your vicinity directly to your phone via Iteris’ Lightning Alerts. You may elect to receive a stand-down message after 30 minutes to ensure safety at the worksite. With Lightning Alerts, a Lightning map layer is provided on the web. This layer will show recent lightning strikes and their age. This allows the user to make informed decisions regarding lightning safety. Keep yourself and your coworkers safe from the hazards of lightning with Iteris’ Lightning Alerts.
About the Author:
Brianna Kump is a road weather meteorologist at Iteris.