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September 6, 2021
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Lightning Safety

Lightnings strikes can severely injure or kill anyone working outdoors. Lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds or between a cloud and the ground. Cloud-to-ground lightning occurs 20 to 25 million times each year in the United States.

It is estimated that at least 300 people are struck by lightning annually, killing an average of 50 people each year.


Consider the following safety tips when thunderstorms are nearby:

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Useful apps and websites, such as The Weather Channel or NOAA Weather Radar, are excellent resources.
  • Seek shelter inside buildings. Buildings should be fully enclosed with electrical wiring and plumbing. Wiring and plumbing can act as a grounding mechanism. Avoid sheltering in areas such as tents, sheds, or covered porches. Remain in the building for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder.
  • Seek shelter in hard-topped metal vehicles with the windows rolled up when buildings or structures are not accessible. Remain in the vehicle for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder.

Consider the following recommendations should you be caught outside with no nearby buildings or vehicles:

  • Lightning is likely to strike the tallest objects in a given area. Avoid being the tallest object.
  • Avoid isolated trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops.
  • Avoid open areas such as fields. Never lie flat on the ground.
  • If caught in an open area, retreat to dense areas of smaller trees surrounded by larger trees, or retreat to low-lying areas (valleys, ditches, etc.).
  • Avoid water! Immediately get out of or away from bodies of water. Water does not attract lightning, but it is an excellent conductor of electricity.
  • Avoid touching wiring, plumbing, or fencing. Lightning can travel long distances through conductors such as metal.

Retrieved from:, "Lightning Safety When Working Outdoors."

This Safety Tip of the Week was originally published Sept. 3, 2018.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Port Clinton, OH:, and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple Inc., Olathe, KS;



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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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