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Are you at risk of a lightning strike on the job?

Summer storms can blow in off of Lake Michigan and turn sunny skies into ominous cloudbursts with deadly lightning bolts. If you work outdoors, you are at a very high risk of harm or even death unless you seek protection indoors.

There are some industries that have a higher risk of lightning strikes than others. Those working around tall structures, in wide open areas or around conductive materials or explosives are in particularly precarious situations. They may be employed as:

-- Pipe-fitters or plumbers

-- Loggers

-- Utility repairmen or installers

-- Maintenance workers

-- Telecommunications workers

-- Heavy equipment operators

-- Farmers and field laborers

-- Construction workers

Your employer should have a formal lightning policy in place to keep workers safe during thunderstorms. Policies should address the need to get to a safe enclosed area in a timely basis.

Policies may dictate the signs to beware of when storms threaten the area. Gathering dark clouds, winds accelerating, distant thunder and rain all are harbingers of potentially lethal lightning. When these conditions begin, the area should be picked up and cleared of personnel and equipment.

If a co-worker gets hit by lightning, he or she will need urgent medical care. Call 911 and immediately begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation if there is no heartbeat and the person stops breathing. If a defibrillator is available, that can be used to restart the heart.

If you get struck by lightning while on the job, your life may be permanently changed. Survivors can be left with significant burns and neurological damage that impedes their ability to return to the jobs they formerly worked. It might be possible to recover damages through a workers compensation claim or even a lawsuit, depending on various factors.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Lightning Safety on the Job," accessed July 22, 2016

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