Lightning Safety in the Workplace 

Under Australian Consumer law, all  organizations have an obligation to undertake a duty of care towards their employees, and  need to perform due diligence towards ensuring appropriate workplace safety. 

This may be as simple as:

      • providing a policy and procedure,
      • adopting the use of technology and administrative controls ,
      • education the workforce with regards to recognition of  safe  and unsafe situations, and
      • providing employees with an understanding and the knowledge to keep themselves safe.

Health and Safety on Western Australian workplaces is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (the OSH Act), and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (the OSH regulations) supported by codes of practice and guidance notes. 

Under Section 19 (1) (a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, all employers have a duty of care  to ensure, as far as practicable, that employees are not exposed to hazards in the workplace.

There are three (3) basic steps that should be taken to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, which is based on the concept that the workplace should be modified to suit people. Not vice versa.

These three (3) steps are:

      • identifying hazards which may cause injury or harm to the health of a person;
      •  assessing the risk of injury or harm occurring to a person if exposed to a hazard;
      •  controlling the risk by introducing measures that eliminate/ reduce exposure to a hazard.

Lightning is a recognized, but very misunderstood hazard that can (and regularly does) impact upon any workplace, the likelihood of which can now be mitigated through the application of  a Lightning Management  Plan,  through the use of Lightning Protection Systems, and low impedance grounding, and other technology  controls such as Lightning Warning and Threat Notification Systems.

However, this subject matter is steeped in the technical, where the wider public understanding surrounding lightning and its various injury mechanisms, is too often clouded in false myth and folklore.

Lightningman are specialists in this highly niche and technical area of workplace safety , and can assist organizations navigate through the falsehood and myth.

Lightning Management Plan

All organizations are encouraged to develop a risk-based Lightning Management Plan (LMP), although those who are tasked with the responsibility for LMP development, often have sufficient understanding to adequately consider some of the more technical nuance associated with the various injury/ damage mechanisms that are associated with lightning.

The role of the LMP is to proactively assess and then identify those lightning hazards that may impact operations involving;

      • Personnel,
      • Production,
      • Plant.

Lightningman has an unprecedented level of experience (detailed resume available)  having assisting numerous high risk organizations deal with issues surrounding the development of their Lightning Management Plans (LMP).

Safe Working Procedure

Various workgroups will have their own unique level of exposure to lightning hazards,  and some will have a much greater disposition to risk through the various lightning injury mechanisms,  and  who will benefit from workgroup specific Safe Working Procedures that cater to their particular normal work activities.

The objectives of the Safe Working Procedure is to;

  • To ensure that specific activities are managed in a safe and efficient manner during electrical storms.
  • Identify the responsibilities for all person(s) performing/ managing work activities.
  • Define the standards to be applied for the management of operations during electrical storm events.
  • To notify all personnel involved in high risk activities of impending weather conditions requiring safe actions
  • To provide effective early warning  and timely communication of  lightning threat alert notifications.
  • To communicate education and lightning risk information to  all at risk groups

Lightningman can assist organizations with their understanding and development of their Safe Working Procedures.

(Copyright Lightningman Pty Ltd)

Lightning Safety versus Productivity

Lightningman has long held the view that those who tasked to identify and document lightning risks within their organisations, often do so without the benefit of informed understanding, that whilst lightning may follow the technical rules of physics and electricity, its physics and behavior are in fact very different than what we are used to with ‘man made’ electricity’.

Lightning is a VERY different form of  electricity, where our ‘common sense’ thoughts and extrapolations of our own electrical experience, are more often than not  ‘wrong’ when it comes down to the behavior of lightning.

Yet there are many, who without the benefit of any technical understanding to even the most basic fundamentals  of lightning, are too often left to undertake risk assessments and make decisions and determinations affecting safety and productivity , without any clear understanding of the actual risk exposures involved, or any useful understanding  as to the most appropriate, and/or mitigation controls available.

This has too often resulted in a misguided acceptance that unplanned disruptions affecting high yield productivity are a normal consequence to the cost of doing business.

At Lightningman, we often take a differing view.

It has been our experience that in many instances, lost production and opportunity through unplanned disruptions, has been an unnecessary impost on operational profitability, given that more appropriate technology controls have too often been overlooked.

However where more appropriate controls where applied, this would not only ensure continuous operational productivity,  but  would also provide for significant improvements to operational safety, during high risk periods.

Our LightningMan ™ LightningMa-ST and LightningMa-SK  safe productivity solutions offer significant opportunities for providing continuous productivity, whislt ensuring optimum safety to personnel during high risk conditions.

(Copyright Lightningman Pty Ltd)

Lightning Warning and Detection Technology

IEC 62793-2016 – Protection against lightning: Thunderstorm Warning Systems, offers a useful reference to those looking for guidance on matters involving lightning threat detection.

This standard applies to the use of the data obtained from thunderstorm warning systems, and from atmospheric electrical activity, in order to establish threat and provide preventive measures.

There are four (4)  classes of detection capability that are described;

  • Class 1 detectors:    detect storm activity during its whole life cycle      (phases 1 to 4).
  • Class 2 detectors:      detect C-C and C-G lightning                                                      (phases 2 to 4).
  • Class 3 detectors:      detect only C-G lightning                                                             (phases 3 and 4).
  • Class 4 detectors:      detect C-G lightning                                                                        (phase 3 with limited performance).

IEC 62793 distinguishes between the detection capability of each Class of detection technology, and then classifies these detection capability across four (4) storm phases, along with the type of discharges that can be measured.

These phases include:

  • Phase 1:      The electric field rises –                                                                                             Initial stage
  • Phase 2:      Intra – Cloud (I-C) and Cloud – Cloud (C-C) lightning –                             Growth phase
  • Phase 3:      Cloud – Cloud (C-C) and Cloud – Ground (C-G) lightning –                     Mature phase
  • Phase 4:      Number of lightning bolts decreases –                                                              Dissipation Phase

The most commonly applied lightning threat detection technologies as is used within higher risk industries involves ‘ historical’ threat detection (Class 2), whereby lightning must have already occured for it to be detected and then ranged.

True ‘Predictive’  threat warnings ‘prior’ to a lightning strike are also possible, and are also outlined within  IEC 62793-2016- (Class 1) .

This involves changes in the local electric field that can be  sensed and then measured during the “Initial” stage -Phase 1, where at the onset of localized thunderstorms, the local electric field will rise,  and can be measured against a set of default E Field thresholds.

The use of this  E Field sensing can provide for several minutes of advanced warning, and well prior to any first lightning strike occuring

Threat Ranging, Threat Assessment and Threat Notification

Organizations must determine and then standardize upon an appropriate set of distance based metrics, on which to base their determinations for safe, and unsafe conditions.

These distance thresholds are then used as a trigger point for the commencement of safe procedures, but must be able to be  pre-set within the Lightning Warning  System.

Lightningman can assist in the selection of appropriate metrics to suit the various activities that may be involved.

Safe Shelter

Having established that lightning conditions are local, all persons who may find themselves outdoors or otherwise exposed, should be directed to seek an immediate safe refuge indoors, or within some other designated safe shelter, and then wait for further instruction.

A recent significant lightning incident at a Queensland mining operation (Dec 2020) resulted in two (2) operators being injured by whilst inside a Crib Room, which would ordinarily be considered as being a safe shelter, although somewhere in the design phase, the pressure wave  and blast radius of an exploding tyre explosion didn’t make it to risk assessment, despite similar lightning initiated tyre pyrolysis being a regular occurrence affecting the worldwide mining sector.

Lightningman can confirm that there are literally hundreds of similar workplaces that present similar exposure to risk.

Safe shelters will typically include:

  • Permanent, substantial buildings.
  • Fully enclosed all-metal vehicles.
  • Designated metal shelters (specially designed).
  • Building which are outside of the blast/ debris radius from explosions and pressure wave.
  • Other locations as identified by specialists or ES&H personnel.

Any  structure designated as a safe shelter must be audited against a minimum set of guidelines, that once met, would allow a placard to be affixed to the structure, thereby identifying the structure as having met the minimum safe shelter requirements.

 Ongoing Threat Assessment

Alert conditions may only be removed  once 30 minutes after the last recorded lightning activity within the applicable distance.

They must be removed in order of severity.  That is, if a Red Alert has been declared, it must be downgraded to an Orange Alert, then a Yellow Alert before being completely removed.

As each alert condition is removed the Warning System Operator shall notify all relevant supervisors that the alert condition has been changed.  A positive confirmation from each supervisor must be obtained.

Once a zone has been clear of lightning for 30 minutes the alert for that zone can be lifted. Once the alerts have been lifted, the incident should be entered into the records.

This must be done regardless of the alert status reached.

During alert conditions, only the supervisor of each area should contact the Warning System operator.  All other personnel should direct queries regarding the current alert situation to their supervisor.

Once the threat has diminished it should prompt the resumption of normal activities.

Decision to Resume Activities

Once the Lightning Monitoring technology has issued the all-clear, or where 30 minutes have elapsed since the last thunder is heard, only then can the “All Clear” be called where all personnel can resume their normal duties, albeit at heightened alert for the possibility of additional threat alerts.

(Copyright Lightningman Pty Ltd)

Lightning Risk Mechanisms

Most people  will be unaware as to the actual means and incident statistics by which persons are injured by Lightning,  yet there are actually seven (7) primary lightning injury mechanisms by which lightning related death and injury may occur.

Only 3-5% of all recent lightning statistics  will have involved ‘direct’ strike’,  where a person, or person’s will have been struck directly.

>95% of the recent statistics have resulted from ‘indirect’ lightning strikes,  even involving lightning activity occuring up to several kilometers remote.

 Lightningman can assist your organisations with controls to deal with each of the various injury /risk mechanisms.

Lightning Safety Seminars

Lightningman is a specialist in the technically niche area of Lightning Safety, and  with a  25 year resume of significant Lightning Safety projects behind us, carried out across four (4) continents,  such levels of demonstrated experience should confirm  our status as an authoritative technical resource to all seeking guidance and assistance in this technically challenging area.

Lightningman  pioneered a greater lightning safety and risk awareness across Australia’s higher risk workplaces, having solely organized and hosted influential Lightning Safety Seminars nationally, and across several Australian states, that challenged Standards, Regulators and risk industries  to come together and develop a common approach to dealing with lightning threats.

These Seminars were very well attended, and attracting the attendance  of  many key  stakeholders, including:

  • Relevant Australian Standards Committees,
  • Various State Industry Regulators,
  • Various State Sporting Regulators
  • National Sporting Codes
  • High risk industry sectors including:
  • Mining,
  • Resources,
  • Energy and Renewables,
  • Power and Water Utilities,
  • Telecommunications, and
  • Construction,

With many seminar participants later amending their organizations own Lightning Safety Procedures, to follow the Lightning Safety Framework outlined and proposed.

Our seminars were prompted by a spate of lightning related fatalities and injuries that we believed were completely preventable,  where it was our view that had high risk industries a clearer understanding of Lightning and its various risk mechanisms, and that dealt with lightning risks in a common manner, a mitigation of lightning risk could be assured, as opposed to the then reality,  where  the aforementioned organizations dealt with their understanding of risk individually and in very different ways, that did not support any cohesive or structured approach, or that afforded any appropriate recognition of the hazard,  whilst placing  those workgroups undertaking higher risk activities at unnecessary levels of  exposure as a consequence.

(Copyright Lightningman Pty Ltd)