Safety and OSHA News

Summer weather hazard killed 400 in 10 years

Much has been written this year about two weather-related causes of death: tornadoes and heat. But another weather hazard associated with summer kills dozens in the U.S. each year.

It’s lightning.

The National Weather Service says from 2001 to 2010, 393 people in the U.S. were killed by lightning strikes. Hundreds more are permanently injured each year.

Many of those killed were workers. Some recent examples:

  • Officer Jefferson Taylor of Riverside, MO, is one victim. He was on tornado disaster response duty in Joplin, MO, the day after the huge tornado struck that city. Another thunderstorm passed through Joplin the following day, and Taylor was struck by lightning. He was hospitalized for several days but eventually succumbed to his injuries. He was 31.
  • A rancher was struck and killed in Bridger, MT. Fifty-four-year-old Gary DeVries was rounding up cattle for branding when he and his horse were struck. DeVries and the horse died at the scene.
  • A 13-year-old boy was struck dead by lightning while baling hay with his father in central Pennsylvania. His father felt tingling and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He heard a loud clap and turned around to see his son on the ground. The boy, Levi Lantz, was pronounced dead at the scene.

June 19-25 is Lightning Safety Week, and summer is the peak season for the electric storms.

Most U.S. states logged at least one lightning-related death in the previous decade. The ten states with the highest number of lightning deaths during the period:

  1. Florida
  2. Colorado
  3. Texas
  4. Georgia
  5. North Carolina
  6. Alabama
  7. Missouri
  8. Ohio
  9. South Carolina, and
  10. New Jersey.

Some lightning information for outdoor workers:

  • No place is safe outside when thunderstorms are in the area.
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately seek shelter.
  • Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle.
  • If there’s no shelter nearby, never stand under a tree and stay away from bodies of water and objects that conduct electricity (wire fences, power lines, etc.)
  • Victims don’t carry an electrical charge after they’re struck and may need immediate medical attention.

For more lightning information, click here.

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