From storms to safety: how we should rethink mitigation plans. 

Foster Quist, HSE Supervisor at CSI Energy Group, based at Ahafo North 161kV Powerline project in Ghana, shares how the “Storms and Lightning Risk Preventive Mitigation Plan," implemented provides a robust framework for addressing climate change challenges.

In the face of escalating climate change, the construction industry finds it imperative to rethink and adapt its strategies for managing weather-related risks. With storms and lightning posing significant threats to both personnel safety and operational continuity, innovative and proactive mitigation plans have become more crucial than ever. Foster Quist, HSE Supervisor at CSI Energy Group, based at Ahafo North 161kV Powerline project in Ghana, shares how the “Storms and Lightning Risk Preventive Mitigation Plan," implemented provides a robust framework for addressing these challenges.

Understanding the changing landscape

Africa has always been susceptible to extreme weather conditions, but climate change has exacerbated these challenges, making them more frequent and severe. Regions across the continent, from West Africa to the Sahel, are experiencing unprecedented weather patterns. For instance, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone are increasingly witnessing severe thunderstorms and lightning strikes due to their proximity to the equator. In East Africa, countries like Kenya and Tanzania face the dual threats of extreme droughts and sudden, intense rainfall, leading to floods and storms.


Historically, these regions had predictable weather patterns. In the past, construction projects in Ghana could reasonably anticipate the seasonal rains and plan accordingly. However, with climate change, the predictability has diminished. The Ahafo North area, for example, now experiences significant lightning activity that is both more frequent and intense than before. The increased incidence of lightning strikes poses a higher risk to construction activities, particularly in exposed and green-field areas lacking permanent structures.

Strategic shifts in mitigation planning

The "Storms and Lightning Risk Preventive Mitigation Plan" developed by CSI Energy Group exemplifies a strategic approach to these evolving risks. Key elements of the plan include:


Proactive risk assessment

The plan emphasizes the importance of incorporating weather risk assessments in the early stages of project planning. This involves understanding the specific threats posed by inclement weather and designing mitigation measures accordingly. By identifying potential hazards early, construction companies can develop tailored strategies that address the unique challenges of each project site. For instance, the plan considers the higher risk of lightning strikes due to the construction of high-voltage lattice towers and the lack of permanent structures in green-field areas.


Clear communication and responsibilities

Effective communication is crucial in managing weather risks. The plan outlines roles and responsibilities for all team members, ensuring that everyone from safety managers to site supervisors is aware of their duties during adverse weather events. This clear delineation of responsibilities helps prevent confusion and ensures a coordinated response. The plan also includes detailed procedures for pre-start and toolbox talks, where weather forecasts and action plans are communicated to all workers, fostering a culture of preparedness.

Foster emphasizes, "Clear and open communication is the backbone of our risk mitigation strategy. Ensuring that every team member knows their role and responsibilities allows us to respond swiftly and effectively to any weather-related threats."


Real-time monitoring and response

With unpredictable weather patterns, real-time monitoring becomes essential. The plan includes protocols for continuous weather monitoring and clear criteria for triggering specific responses, such as evacuations or equipment shutdowns. Advanced weather tracking technologies and partnerships with meteorological services allow for timely and accurate updates, enabling construction teams to act swiftly and effectively. This real-time approach minimizes downtime and reduces the risk of accidents, ensuring that workers can respond promptly to changing conditions.


Safe refuge and shelter

Providing adequate shelter for workers during storms is a priority. The plan identifies safe refuges, such as anchored temporal canopies and metallic enclosed vehicles, to protect personnel from lightning and other hazards. Additionally, the plan considers the practicalities of moving large teams to safe locations, balancing the need for swift evacuation with the risk of causing panic or additional hazards. This strategic approach to shelter ensures that workers have access to safe havens during inclement weather, reducing the risk of injury.

Foster adds, "Our priority is to ensure that our workers are safe at all times. By identifying and preparing safe refuges, we can provide immediate protection during unexpected weather events, minimizing risks and ensuring their well-being."


Training and preparedness

Regular training sessions ensure that all employees and contractors are familiar with the mitigation procedures. Pre-start and toolbox talks include weather forecasts and action plans, fostering a culture of preparedness. These training sessions cover various scenarios, from identifying safe refuges to shutting down critical equipment, ensuring that workers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively. The emphasis on training also extends to decision-makers, who are trained to make informed choices about when and how to implement the mitigation plan.


Adapting to climate realities

The dynamic nature of climate change necessitates continuous adaptation of risk mitigation strategies. The Ahafo North Project's plan is not static; it undergoes regular reviews and updates based on new weather data, incidents, and technological advancements. This iterative process ensures that the mitigation measures remain effective and relevant. By staying responsive to changing conditions, construction companies can continually improve their strategies, enhancing resilience in the face of evolving climate risks.

"Our mitigation plan is a living document," explains Foster. "We regularly review and update it based on the latest data and technological advancements to ensure that our strategies remain effective and relevant in an ever-changing climate landscape."

Innovative solutions and future directions

Looking ahead, the integration of advanced technologies such as predictive analytics and real-time weather sensors could further enhance the effectiveness of storm and lightning risk management. Predictive analytics can provide early warnings of severe weather events, allowing construction teams to take preventive action. Real-time sensors can monitor environmental conditions on-site, providing immediate feedback and enabling rapid response to emerging threats. Additionally, collaboration with meteorological experts and leveraging global best practices can provide valuable insights for refining these strategies.

The use of drones for site inspections and monitoring is another innovative solution that can enhance safety and efficiency. Drones can quickly assess damage after a storm, identify potential hazards, and provide real-time data to inform decision-making. By incorporating these advanced technologies, construction companies can stay ahead of the curve, ensuring that their mitigation strategies are both proactive and responsive.


The construction industry's response to climate change and associated weather risks is a testament to its resilience and adaptability. By adopting comprehensive and proactive mitigation plans like the one at Ahafo North, companies can safeguard their workers, protect assets, and ensure operational continuity even in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. As the climate continues to evolve, so too must our strategies, driving us toward a safer and more sustainable future in construction.