The Role of Governments in Lightning Safety
What is the responsibility of governments to their people?
Are they required to assure protection of their citizens from preventable threats such as war, crime, environmental threats, exploitation, and work hazards? If you answer ‘yes’, then consider that lightning is the most common weather threat to life that people worldwide encounter.
In developed countries, building codes often specify lightning protection for schools, hospitals, and other buildings used by the public. Compensation to workers injured by lightning may be ordered by the courts in cases where workplace safety has been inadequate. This is similar to the concept of ‘environmental justice’
In Kampala, Uganda, two recent developments deserve applause for promoting environmental justice. The first is the establishment of a special division within Uganda’s judiciary
to handle infrastructure and environmental crimes. The second is the November 1, 2021, groundbreaking judgment
in which Justice Michael Elubu ruled in favor of human rights watchdog Legal Brains Trust in the case it filed against Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) for failing to cover drainage channels, thus endangering public safety, especially during storms. This was prompted by the drowning of a market vendor, Cissy Namukasa, in a drainage channel on May 2 last year. She was not the only citizen to die this way in Uganda.
What about people injured by lightning, another aspect of storms? What about students who have been killed by lightning while attending schools that are not ‘lightning safe’? Should governments adopt and enforce lightning protection standards for the protection of their citizens?
Our lead story
details how 13 male prisoners were injured by lightning as they were eating lunch in a prison courtyard. This is a clear case of inadequate lightning safety precautions in a public institution. Who should bear the responsibility? Who should meet the cost of compensation for the injuries in such situations?
The precedent of a city administration being held responsible for a death during severe weather is a milestone in environmental justice in Africa. Lightning safety and injury prevention, as part of environmental justice, should be also be considered a responsibility. In Uganda, this means inclusion in the National Development Plans and in the commitments made by governments as part of the Paris Agreement
ACLENet stands ready to work with government bodies responsible for disaster preparedness, lightning injury prevention, and student and worker safety.