2022 National Lightning Safety Awareness Week

National Lightning Safety Awareness Week will enter its 21st year starting on June 19th, running through June 25th. From fires to floods, earthquakes to hurricanes, disaster can strike at any time, literally. One of nature’s most efficient and powerful acts is lightning. When we see a flash, that light travels at a constant 186,000 miles/second. The intense heat of the lightning generates a sound, which is what we know is called thunder. A bolt contains on average about 300 million volts and roughly 30,000 amps per strike. To put that in perspective, the average household operates on 120 volts.


A global leader in weather and data, Vaisala published their report on lighting strikes and revealed that in 2021 there were 194,226,288 lighting strikes recorded here in America. This is a 14% increase (or 24 million more) lighting strikes than the 170,549,822 that were recorded the previous year of 2020.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we will see approximately 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the United States. Even though statistically the chance of being struck by lighting is relatively low at 1 in 1,000,000, the basics of when to stop performing work can help prevent an injury or death.

Death and injury statistics are impacted based on the type of work being completed as well as the geographic location where work is being performed. Texas has generated the greatest number of lightning strikes followed by Florida over the past several years. The southeast as a region is home to the most lighting strikes, so for us that live here in North Carolina, we should know the drill and what to do when severe weather hits.  


The National Lightning Safety Council has a list of twelve activities that contributed most to the number of fatal strikes. Construction, roofing, farming, and landscaping all made the list. If you have operations that involve being outdoors, it is not only recommended, but also is required based on the OSHA standard: Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees”.

The courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. This includes lightning hazards that can cause death or serious bodily harm. Additional, employers should have a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP), as outlined in 29 CFR 1910.38 or 29 CFR 1926.35. 

The EAP should include a written lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers. This lightning safety protocol should:

  • Inform supervisors and workers to take action after hearing thunder, seeing lightning, or perceiving any other warning signs of approaching thunderstorms.
  • Identify locations and requirements for safe shelters.
  • Indicate response times necessary for all workers to reach safe shelters.
  • Specify approaches for determining when to suspend outdoor work activities, and when to resume outdoor work activities.
  • Account for the time required to evacuate customers and members of the public, and the time needed for workers to reach safety.
  • Employers should also post information about lightning safety at outdoor worksites. All employees should be trained on how to follow the EAP, including the lightning safety procedures.


As noted, this is the 21st year of National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, which many believe has had a positive impact on both awareness and education. There is an overall downtrend in lightning strike deaths in the United States since 2016 when 40 fatalities were recorded. This is keeping in mind that we are seeing more and more severe storms year-over-year that is producing an increased number of lightning strikes. 



Be sure to be prepared before bad weather hits! Provide your employees with all relevant safety rules and policies to keep in mind. If you are proactive in tackling bad weather conditions, you can minimize the impact on your business and most importantly the safety of your employees. Use these key areas to help you and your team decide what plan works best for your operations in case you don’t have anything in place:

  • Define Potential Risks
  • Determine how those risk will affect operations
  • Implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate risk
  • Test and train your employees on those procedures
  • Periodically review your processes to make sure they are still effective and update as needed 

Remind employees if they hear thunder, even when it sounds like it is in the distant, it is time to find a safe location (indoors preferably). Any thunder you hear is caused by lightning and should be taken seriously. OSHA and NOAA recommend that employers and supervisors follow these lightning safety best practices for workers whose jobs involve working outdoors:

  • Check local and regional weather reports prior to beginning any outdoor work
  • OSHA recommends that employers consider rescheduling jobs to avoid workers being caught outside in hazardous weather conditions
  • When working outdoors, supervisors and each employee should continuously monitor weather conditions and communicate the plan
  • Watch for thick cloud cover coming in quickly and increase wind speeds – when leaves turn up, know that weather is likely in the area.


We look to the experts in the weather field to help us when and where weather can impact our operations; however, leave it to Sentinel to help you and your company better plan for severe weather events. For a full listing of resources on this and related topics, visit us at our storm center

For a sample lighning policy, please contact Sentinel’s Director of Risk Engineering, Dana Vorholt at 980.256.7036 or dvorholt@sentinelra.com.

Share on LinkedIn

About The Author

As Director of Risk Engineering, Dana’s professional passion puts Sentinel clients on the path to workplace safety, compliance, and optimal profitability.

Dana is widely known and well respected in the loss control arena. He provides workplace and occupational safety guidance and training and assures compliance standards are met for businesses with a diverse set of operational risk portfolios.

Dana is heavily involved with Carolina’s American General Contractors and American Traffic Safety Services Association where he is a committee member in both organizations in efforts to advance safety and health for Sentinel clients and the construction industry abroad.