Can Lightning Strike an Aluminum Ladder

Can Lightning Strike an Aluminum Ladder

The next time you’re about to climb an aluminum ladder outside, you might want to think twice about it. 

According to some sources, aluminum isn’t usually struck by lightning because the electrical charge goes through the ground rather than the ladder itself. 

Others claim that it can happen, but just rarely enough not to worry about it, and that using an aluminum ladder in a storm attracts lightning, so your chances of being struck are even smaller. 

In any case, if you use an aluminum ladder during a storm and get struck by lightning, there’s probably nothing you could have done to prevent it anyway.

Can Lightning Strike an Aluminum Ladder?

Not necessarily. If you were standing in water, you’d be safe from a potentially fatal shock because water conducts electricity – it dissipates it away. 

Metal, on the other hand, acts as a conduit for electricity, conducting it to whatever is at its opposite end. 

So if you’re using an aluminum ladder during a storm and aren’t touching anything that can conduct away from the current (water or earth), then yes – you could very well be struck by lightning.

The Science

Lightning is a form of static electricity produced by a difference in temperature between clouds and air. 

Lightning can occur within a cloud, or be released from two different clouds and meet between them. As it moves, it heats up and ionizes (strips electrons off) surrounding air molecules, creating an enormous spark. 

When a bolt of lightning hits ground level (as opposed to another cloud), it’s called a ground flash or groundstroke.

What Are the Chances?

Although you’re probably not worried about being struck by lightning on a ladder, it happens. 

According to a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, people who spend time outside during thunderstorms are 60 times more likely to be struck by lighting than those who spend time inside. 

There are even documented cases of people being struck and killed while on aluminum ladders. Why is that?

Unfortunately, since these incidents are not common, you won’t find a lot of hard data about them. 

But here’s what we do know: Aluminum isn’t conductive enough to attract lighting. However, when lightning does strike something – be it a person or inanimate object – the electricity travels through whatever it touches until it finds a conductor to complete its circuit. 

In some cases, that will be your body if you touch your ladder while standing in wet grass during a thunderstorm.

How do I know if I’m in danger of being struck by lightning?

The truth is, there’s no way to know whether or not you’re in danger of being struck by lightning. 

There are so many variables at play – from your height and position relative to other people and objects around you, to atmospheric conditions, time of day and even if it’s a stormy season – it would be impossible for any human (or computer) to predict where lightning will strike.

Related: Are Aluminum Ladders OSHA Approved

Where Is the Safest Place During a Thunderstorm?

If you find yourself outside during a thunderstorm, there’s no way to guarantee your safety. However, it is possible to minimize your risk. 

The safest place is inside a building or vehicle, away from doors and windows. If shelter is not nearby and you are caught in a storm with high winds, try to find a low ground or crouch as close to the ground as possible with your head tucked in until it passes.

Lightning Safety Tips

If you don’t have to be outside during a thunderstorm, don’t be. If you must go out, stay low to reduce your chance of being struck. 

You should avoid tall objects such as trees or buildings as lightning is most likely to strike at elevations above its point of origin. 

The average person has about a 30% chance of dying after being struck by lightning, so if you are struck by a bolt you must call for help immediately.

If you are struck by lightning, there is a small chance that you will not survive. 

However, if your life does hang in the balance it is important to remember that your life can be saved by doing one thing: breathing. 

Your respiratory system must continue to function for your heart to pump blood throughout your body and keep you alive.

Related: How Long Do Aluminum Ladders Last

Conclusion

Yes, lightning can strike aluminum ladders. Although it’s less likely to happen than with a steel ladder, there is still a potential danger in using an aluminum ladder during a storm. 

If you must use one, place it at least 10 feet away from trees and buildings and keep your hands off of the conductive rails. Make sure other people are aware of your presence as well.

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