NIOSH and OSHA have collaborated on a new app aimed at addressing weather-related hazards for workers during the summer months.
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool mobile app, available for both iOS and Android devices, displays heat index values based on temperature and humidity. The tool uses the smartphone’s geolocation capabilities to pull temperature and humidity data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites.
It shows the current risk level (minimal, low, moderate, high, or extreme) and forecasts the hourly heat index throughout the entire workday giving employers information they can use to adjust the work environment as needed to protect workers, according to OSHA and NIOSH.
“With the hot summer months on our doorstep, this app is a valuable tool for employers and workers to help prevent heat-related illnesses,” said John Howard, M.D., director of NIOSH, in a statement. “In many cases, workers rely on their employers to provide opportunities for taking rest breaks and drinking water. This app puts life-saving information at the fingertips of both supervisors and workers to inform them when they need to take precautions to stay safe at the worksite.”.
Heat-related illness and exposure causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard. In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat-related illness, and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to OSHA.
In addition to illness, extreme heat exposure could reduce productivity and increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms,fogged-up safety glasses and cognitive impairment.
“We applaud NIOSH for updating this important worker safety tool. Workers are most vulnerable in the first few days of working in the heat and the app helps users to calculate risk levels and learn the protective measures they can take to prevent heat illness,” said Dorothy Dougherty, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Being aware of the risks, gradually building a tolerance, and taking the necessary precautions can keep workers safe and save lives.”
The app also provides users with NIOSH and OSHA recommendations for protection based on a calculated risk level. This includes information about staying cool, proper hydration and scheduling rest breaks.
Current NIOSH recommendations that can be applied in many different outdoor workplaces include:
- Limit time in the heat and/or increase recovery time in a cool environment.
- Increase the number of workers per task.
- Train supervisors and workers about heat stress, including symptoms of heat-related illness, first aid, and risk factors.
- Use a buddy system where workers observe each other for signs of heat intolerance.
- Provide adequate amounts of cool, potable water near the work area and encourage workers to drink frequently.
- Use a heat alert program (additional written guidelines) whenever the weather service forecasts that a heat wave is likely to occur.
- Develop a plan to get employees acclimatized to hot weather and to increase physical fitness.
To install the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety app on your iOS or Android device, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatapp.html.