What to do at work when heavy thunderstorms hit


Thunderstorms can happen all year round, but the heaviest storms tend to occur in the summer when the temperature rises and it is extremely humid. It can sometimes take you by surprise, and that can lead to dangerous situations – including when you’re at work. Keep reading this article to find out how to stay safe during a thunderstorm.

 The dangers of thunderstorms

Lightning is one of the most dangerous weather phenomena; on average, it kills one to two people in the Netherlands a year, and it injures many more. Although the odds of being struck by lightning are very small, the consequences can be very serious. When lightning strikes, a huge amount of electricity is released and the voltage rises to millions of volts. For comparison: 220 volts come out of the wall socket, and even that amount can be lethal.

Calculating the distance of lightning

As soon as you hear the rumble of thunder, danger may be just around the corner. Calculating the distance of lightning can help to reassure you, especially if you are not yet in a safe place. As soon as you see the flash of lightning, start counting. Count the number of seconds until you hear thunder and divide this number by three. This tells you how far away the lightning is from you in kilometres. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) recommends seeking shelter if there are less than three seconds between the thunder and lightning. This means that the thunderstorm is less than three kilometres away.

Working outside during a thunderstorm

Many AB employees are used to working outside – in the field on a tractor, in an orchard, as a gardener, or in the civil engineering industry. When a thunderstorm is on its way, remember the 10-second rule above. Also calculate the amount of time it will take to get yourself and any colleagues to safety. And don’t forget the following tips:

  • Seek shelter in a building as quickly as possible. Never seek shelter under a tree.
  • Stay away from tall structures and make sure you are not the tallest thing around you.
  • If you are out working in an open field, squat down on the floor with your feet together and your arms wrapped around your legs. Never lie down flat.
  • If you are with several colleagues, never stay huddled in one group – make sure you spread out.
  • Don’t use an umbrella; you should even put it away.
  • Remove metal jewellery, belts etc., and put your phone away.
  • Stay at least 10 metres away from fences, construction lifts, scaffolding, lighting columns, and other metal structures.
  • If you are in a car or a cab, it is safe there. Keep windows, doors, and the roof closed.
  • If you are wearing hearing protection, be extra alert. This will block the sound of thunder.

Buienradar (a Dutch weather website and app) is a useful tool for keeping an eye on the weather and taking action in good time. Thunderstorms approach quickly, so don’t wait too long. If there has been no lightning for fifteen minutes, you can resume your work.

Working indoors during a thunderstorm

In a thunderstorm, you’re safer inside than outside, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any dangers. The problem when working indoors is that you sometimes can’t hear or see a thunderstorm coming. So, make good agreements with your colleagues and be aware of the following:

  • If you are working with metal or anything that can conduct electricity (such as gas, electricity, water, and central heating pipes, air conditioning ducts, etc.), stop what do you are doing. Also move away from these objects.
  • Do not stand in front of windows.
  • Stay away from running water.

We hope this article has given you a few practical tips. Remember: don’t panic and get yourself and others to safety quickly.

 Did you know…

  • The temperature of a lightning bolt can reach up to 30,000 degrees. That’s much hotter than the surface of the sun!
  • In the Netherlands, lightning strikes about 100,000 times a year.
  • On average, there are 25 thunderstorms a year in the Netherlands.
  • A lightning bolt is about 5 to 6.5 kilometres long.
  • A lightning bolt travels at the speed of about 60,000 kilometres per second.
  • The hairs on your skin stand up when you are too close to the thunderstorm.

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