Severe weather is common during the summer months. We often hear phrases like severe thunderstorm warning and severe thunderstorm watch, but what is the difference?

A severe thunderstorm warning means severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act in case a watch escalates to a warning. Use this month’s Severe Weather Toolbox Talk to review shelter options with your employees.

You can prepare your office by getting emergency radios and flashlights, and documenting the locations of all fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and emergency exits. If a storm does hit, unplug computers and stay inside, away from windows and glass doors. If you can hear thunder, avoid talking on the phone and take off headsets. Lightning injuries can happen inside, so stay away from electronics, appliances, and metal items like door and window frames.

Field workers have additional things to consider. When working outside, if you hear thunder—even a distant rumble—get to a safe place immediately. Thunder and lightning always come together. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), no outside location is safe when thunderstorms are in an area. Employers and supervisors should tell workers which buildings to go to if they hear thunder or see lightning. If possible, select fully enclosed buildings with electrical wiring and plumbing.

Fifty percent of lightning-related injuries happen after a thunderstorm has passed, so it is important to follow the 30/30 rule. After seeing lightning, go indoors if you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. If safe building structures are not accessible, employers should guide workers to hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled up windows. Workers should remain in their vehicles for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. Lightning is likely to strike the tallest objects in a given area—you should not be the tallest object. Avoid isolated tall trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops. Avoid water, and immediately get out of and away from bodies of water.

Tornados are another common threat in the U.S., with about 1,000 touching down each year. The announcements given regarding a tornado are like a thunderstorm: a watch or a warning. If a tornado watch is issued, a tornado is possible. If a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been spotted, or is strongly indicated on radar, and it is time to seek shelter.

Before a tornado, it is common to notice a sickly greenish or greenish-black color to the sky. If there is a watch or warning posted, accompanied by hail, consider it a sign of danger. Rapidly moving clouds, in a rotating pattern or converging towards an area in the sky; a rotating funnel-shaped cloud; or debris such as branches or leaves being pulled upward are all concerning signs.

Be prepared ahead of a potential tornado by learning if your town has a tornado siren and making a note its sound. If your building has no basement or emergency shelter, a bathroom (with no windows) or a hallway are your best options. These areas will provide the most safety. Place as many walls as possible between workers and the tornado.

RETTEW can help your company develop plans, programs, and trainings to help keep your employees safe. Contact Kristen Morgret, CSP at 717.576.2797 to set up a consultation.

Additional Offerings

Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s close to 600 services. Our safety team works hand-in-hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at sites such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction. We are well-respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line thriving.