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Seek Shelter Before Lightning Strikes

Staccoto_LightningThe rumbling of thunder is heard in the distance. Looking up, you see the blue sky is disappearing behind a thick veil of black clouds. You continue operating the excavator in the open field, but keep an eye on the gathering storm.

Rain drops splat against your front window. A thunderclap slams overhead. And a bright flash of lightning follows. More drops pelt against the glass. Idling the engine, you take stock of your situation. The job site trailer is a hundred yards away. The rain is getting heavier. The next lightning flash is due any moment. And you are sitting in the metal object in an open field.

It’s time to go. After the next roll of thunder the lightning flashes in the distance about 30 seconds later. You quickly climb out of the cab and jog across the field to the trailer and enter. Your co-workers are inside talking and sipping coffee. They, too, had made the right choice to wait out the storm in a grounded shelter.

An average of 53 lightning-related deaths occur each year in the United States. Florida in particular is the lightning capital of the U.S., resulting in 10 deaths and 40 injuries annually. Hundreds more people suffer lifelong injuries from lightning strikes, including psychological trauma, hearing and vision loss, nerve damage and muscular burns from a direct or indirect lightning hit.  Lightning’s heat exceeds 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and a one to two inch wide bolt of lighting travels at 90,000 miles per second. If you are in the path of a lightning bolt, you can’t avoid it.

A National Weather Service study shows 71 percent of lightning deaths occur in June, July and August, and the odds of being struck by lightning are about one in 10,000.

To avoid being struck by lightning, use the 30-30 rule: Lightning is one mile away for each five seconds between the flash and the thunder. Activate your job site lightning safety plan at count of 30 second, which means the storm is six miles away; and it is advisable not to resume activities for 30 minutes after the storm passes.

The basic job site safety measures for lightning protection are:

  • Have a storm safety plan that includes identifying safe shelter locations, storm warning alarms, or person-to-person signaling systems. (A safe shelter is a four-sided building with a roof. If one is not available on the jobsite, workers should seek shelter in their vehicles until the storm passes.)
  • Avoid water, high ground, open spaces, tall objects (including trees) and metal objects (construction equipment, bleachers, power lines, pipelines and telephone poles).

If a co-worker is struck by lightning, immediately call 911. If they are not breathing, administer CPR. Check for breathing and pulse if the victim is unconscious. If they have a pulse, but are not breathing, administer CPR. Most people struck by lightning die of heart attacks and from not breathing.

Lightning protection is part of Neff Rental’s employee safety training. Because we visit job sites to deliver and repair heavy equipment, our drivers and mechanics keep a vigilant eye on approaching storms, and follow Neff Rental’s thunderstorm safety protocols. To find a Neff Rental branch near your job site, visit, or call 888-709-NEFF.


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