If you’re like me, you’re already sick of all the rain and thunderstorms this summer in Connecticut. (And no, it’s not your imagination — we’re seeing record levels of rain.)
Weather is a topic that gets talked about a lot, but not necessarily thought about when it comes to the workplace.
However, as I’ve talked about before, and as OSHA requires, “Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all OSHA safety and health standards.”
What is an employer to do with certain weather hazards, such as lightning?
Lightning can often be overlooked as a workplace hazard. But as OSHA notes in a Fact Sheet about lightning, “lightning strikes can severely injure or kill workers whose jobs involve working outdoors. Lightning is often overlooked as an occupational hazard, but employers need awareness about lightning hazards to ensure their workers’ safety.”
Here are some key points from the OSHA page:.
- Lightning is a severe occupational hazard that can cause injuries or fatalities to workers exposed to outdoor environments.
- Certain job activities put workers at higher risk, such as those working in open spaces, near tall objects, explosives, or conductive materials (e.g., metal).
- Lightning is unpredictable and can strike outside heavy rainfall areas or up to 10 miles from any rainfall.
- When thunderstorms are in the area, workers should seek shelter immediately, either in fully enclosed buildings with electrical wiring and plumbing or hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled-up windows.
So what’s an employer to do? According to OSHA,
- Employers should have a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that includes a lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers.
- Employers should monitor NOAA weather reports and continuously assess weather conditions to avoid exposing workers to hazardous weather.
- Lightning safety training should be provided to all workers, and they should be aware of the locations of safe shelters at their worksites.
- Lightning warning systems may be used, but they cannot predict the first strike, so observing weather conditions is essential.
You can find the full fact sheet here. Obviously, not all situations are the same. Certain jobs and events (such as working in construction on a tall building) may carry a higher risk than other jobs. But employers should assess the risks and ensure that workers know what to do in the case of a thunderstorm.