View Source: Julie Copeland

As Spring approaches, the threat of severe weather comes with it.  This is the time of year we hear about tornadoes, powerful thunderstorms and sometimes flooding. As we look ahead to weeks of warmer weather and major changes, it’s important that employees who are exposed to the elements are ready and protected from what could come their way.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that workers are made aware of the unique hazards brought on by violent storms. Extra protection may be necessary, which is why OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have combined on a public awareness effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather. This information will help businesses and their workers prepare for tornadoes, and provide information about hazards that workers may face in the aftermath of a tornado.

Emergency Plan

OSHA has shared the following on preparing for a tornado. Businesses should develop an emergency plan. The plan should include details on suitable places to take shelter, policies to ensure all personnel are accounted for, and procedures for addressing any hazardous materials that are on-site. It is also recommended that individuals develop action plans for their families.

As reported by OSHA, after a tornado has occurred, workers may face significant hazards including the potential for additional storms, downed electric lines, and sharp debris. Additionally, employees should watch out for hazards from heat stress and from equipment used during response/recovery operations, such as portable generators. Take special precautions in order to stay safe during response and recovery operations. The Response/Recovery page has more information on these hazards and protections to employ.

Lightning Protection

Another Spring hazard is lightning. The National Weather Service reports that lightning kills an average of 51 people in the United States each year. Construction workers, laborers, machine operators, engineers, roofers, and pipefitters have been struck by lightning most often on the job. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, your chances of getting hit by lightning are greatest in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In most places, lightning hits most often in late afternoon in spring and summer, but lightning can hit anyone at anytime. And the old adage that lightning does not hit the same place twice is simply untrue.

Lightning can stop your heart and kill you. It can also cause burns, nervous system damage, and other health problems. Some of these you may not notice until months after a lightning strike.

If you hear thunder and see lightning, don’t wait! Take cover! Lightning hits tall objects, metal, and water… or a person standing on open ground or a roof. Employers should have a plan for what their workers should do in a lightning storm. It should include the following:

  • Seek shelter in an enclosed building
  • Get into a vehicle with the windows closed

If you are out in the open and have nowhere to go, it is recommended that you squat down with your feet together and only let your feet touch the ground. Put your hands over your ears (to protect against noise). That way, you are so low the lightning may hit something else. Do not lie flat on the ground. Wait a half-hour after the lightning and thunder stop to return outside.

If someone is hit by lightning, call emergency services (911). A victim does not stay electrified. You can touch him/her right away. If the victim has no pulse, try CPR. If there’s a portable defibrillator, follow the instructions provided.

Please be safe in the event of severe weather and keep others safe by sharing this important safety message. Remember, Arbill is here for you and has the safety products, safety services, safety training and safety technology to ensure your employees get home safely after every shift.