Warning on lightning for outside workers

This announcement is for: 
Employee / workerEmployer

WorkSafe is reminding employees who work outside to use extreme caution during thunderstorms.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said there were many workers who could be exposed to the hazard of lightning in the course of their employment.

“We are all aware of the power of lightning, but most would think they could never be unlucky enough to be struck,” Mr McCulloch said.

“The reality is that it is entirely possible, and precautions should be taken during thunderstorms to lessen the risk of being struck.

“Lightning is generally recognised as a serious hazard.  People playing sport are usually called in when a thunderstorm is in their vicinity, and employers should likewise assess the risk to workers and take the action required to keep everyone safe.

“Lightning strikes can travel up to 80km before striking the ground, and will usually target the tallest object or the best electrical conductor in the area.

“Hence, the persons most at risk are those working out in the open, on the sea or other waterways or sheltering under trees or other structures.”

The most recent work-related fatality from lightning in WA was in March 2014, when a 21-year-old backpacker working on a farm at Bruce Rock died after she was struck by lightning.

Recommended precautions to be taken if working outdoors during a thunderstorm include:

  • Seek shelter immediately in an enclosed car or substantial building;
  • Never shelter under trees because your body is a better conductor of electricity than the tree;
  • If boating or engaged in other aquatic activities, head for shore straight away;
  • Avoid touching, handling and proximity to any metallic objects that may become part of the discharge path, for example towers, the metal parts of vehicles or mobile plant, power lines, pipes and rails;
  • Do not handle fishing rods, umbrellas, golf clubs or any other metal objects and stay clear of sheet metal, wire fences, clotheslines and so on; and
  • If caught in the open, crouch down with your feet together.  Do not lie down – the idea is to be as low as possible, but with minimal contact with the ground.

“Using wired electrical equipment, hand-held tools or appliances or landline telephones should also be avoided during thunderstorms,” Mr McCulloch said.

“Employers need to recognize the hazards associated with an electrical storm and, where appropriate, have safe procedures and systems of work in place to minimize the risk of injury or harm to employees.”

Further information on hazards for outdoor workers is available by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)


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Media release
09 Dec 2016

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