Construction Law

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Lightning Safety in Florida

A recent tragedy in Florida has led to a renewed emphasis on roofing safety in the Sunshine State. Romelia Ramirez, a 20-year-old woman from Palm Beach County, was struck by lightning while working on a roof in Wellington. The injuries she sustained resulted in her death. Tragic events like these serve to underscore the importance of preparation. Storms are common during the summer months in Florida, and lightning presents an additional hazard to go along with torrential rainfall and powerful winds. This means maintaining compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards is essential for contractors that want to keep workers safe and avoid potential citations.

In this article, a Florida OSHA lawyer will discuss lightning safety in Florida. Remember, lightning can occur independent of a storm. It’s called “dry lightning” and the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) considers it a notable threat. The same is true for a “bolt from the blue.” This type of lightning occurs when a “cloud-to-ground flash…travels a relatively large distance in clear air away from the storm cloud, and then angles down and strikes the ground.” These lightning bolts have been observed striking more than 25 miles from the thunderstorm cloud it originated from. For industry-leading OSHA defense, consult a Florida OSHA defense lawyer with years of experience fighting on behalf of the construction industry. 

How Common Are Lightning Strikes?

According to OSHA’s “Fact Sheet” on lightning safety, “cloud-to-ground lightning occurs 20 to 25 million times and over 300 people are struck by lightning” every year. Lightning strikes can injure, maim, or kill a worker, and although it’s an often overlooked occupational hazard, employers must be cautious of the danger it presents. Over the last 30 years, approximately 50 people were killed by lightning strikes per year. Many of those that survived were left permanently disabled. Some of the occupations that are at the highest risk of lightning strikes include roofing, construction, building maintenance, power utility field repair, steel erection/telecommunications, plumbing and pipe fitting, and more.

Tips for Staying Safe

The majority of lightning strikes occur when workers are caught outside during a storm. Typically, this happens because workers were racing to “beat the storm,” or finish their work before the storm arrived to avoid delays. This is simply not a risk worth taking. As soon as a storm is identified as a potential threat, it’s time to bring your workers to shelter. Some injuries occur because workers return to work before it is safe to do so. As a rule of thumb, keep your workers in an enclosed shelter until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. 

If you want to eliminate any chance of a lightning-related injury taking place on your project site, follow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) guidelines. They recommend bringing your team inside as soon as you hear thunder. They also advise that contractors that can’t relocate their team in a safe building use hard-topped metal vehicles with the windows rolled up. If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to maintain a safe and compliant project site, consult a Florida OSHA lawyer.

If you would like to speak with a Florida OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.