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TCA Safety Corner: Lighting Safety

By: Michael Warning

With summer comes the scare of storms, though storms can occur at any time of year. Last January, of
all months, a woman was injured when lightning struck a tree and she was hit by a piece of wood. This, as well as an incident where two tower cranes were hit by lightning, got me to look further into the subject.

Lightning is the flow of electrical current between the earth and storm clouds. It is a natural occurring event that many people pay little attention to unless they are golfing or working with metals outdoors during a storm. Lightning’s effects are very misunderstood and too often ignored.


  1. There are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes in the U.S. each year.
  2. Lightning packs between 35,000 to 40,000 amperes of current.
  3. It can generate temperatures as high as 50,000°.
  4. It falls somewhere on the earth every second.
  5. It can travel as far as 40 miles.
  6. It kills nearly 100 people each year in the U.S. and injures hundreds of others.
  7. It can, and does strike the same place twice.
  8. It causes billions of dollars in property damage each year.


This question has many answers that range from simple common sense to sophisticated tracking systems. If you can hear thunder, chances are you are within striking distance of the storm.

  1. If the sky looks threatening, take shelter before hearing thunder.
  2. Never use a tree as a shelter.
  3. Avoid areas that are higher than the surrounding landscape – small hills or rising ground.
  4. Avoid standing near tall objects.
  5. Move away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.
  6. If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Immediately crouch down and cover your ears. Do not lie down or place your hands on the ground.
  7. Tower cranes have lightning rods attached to them that are grounded. In addition, most tall structures will have them.
  8. Jobsites can track storms via,, local TV and radio.
  9. Several companies sell storm tracking systems. These can be a real money saver for concrete contractors pouring in areas where storms are frequent. You don’t want to have to stop in the middle of a pour and you don’t want a washout on flatwork.
  10. All concrete pump and crane work placing forms, rebar cages, other high work must STOP immediately when lightning is flashing.
  11. Operators and ground crew must take shelter AWAY from equipment during a storm.

Editor’s Note: Michael Warning is an independent safety consultant with Construction Safety Consulting in Wilmot, NH. He is a board member for the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and past president of their Safety & risk Management Council. This article is reprinted by permission of the ASCC.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.