As part of continuing educational efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the dangers of extreme heat, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the release of a free application for mobile devices that will enable workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites in order to prevent heat-related illnesses.
"Summer heat presents a serious issue that affects some of the most vulnerable workers in our country, and education is crucial to keeping them safe," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Heat-related illnesses are preventable. This new app is just one way the Labor Department is getting that message out."
The app, available in English and Spanish, combines heat index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user's location to determine necessary protective measures. Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they may take, such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks and adjusting work operations. Users also can review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, and learn about first aid steps to take in an emergency. Information for supervisors is also available through the app on how to gradually build up the workload for new workers as well as how to train employees on heat illness signs and symptoms. Additionally, users can contact OSHA directly through the app.
The app is designed for devices using an Android platform, and versions for BlackBerry and iPhone users will be released shortly. To download it, visit http://go.usa.gov/KFE.
More than 30 workers died from heat stroke in 2010. Thousands become ill from heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses every year. Some of the highest illness rates occur among construction workers, farmworkers, roofers, landscapers, baggage handlers and other air transportation workers.
Effective heat illness prevention requires simple planning. Employers are responsible for protecting workers by providing plenty of water, scheduling rest breaks in the shade or air-conditioned spaces, planning heavy work early in the day, preparing for medical emergencies, training workers about heat and other job hazards, taking steps to help workers - especially those who are new to working outdoors or who have been away from work for a period of time - acclimatize to the heat, and gradually increasing workloads or allowing more frequent breaks during the first week of an outdoor project.
Information for employers about using the heat index to calculate and address risks posed to workers also is available through OSHA's new Web-based tool "Using the Heat Index: Employer Guidance," which is accessible at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/index.html. OSHA's other educational and training tools about heat illnesses prevention, available in English and Spanish, can be found at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.
"OSHA's prevention message is clear: Water. Rest. Shade. These are three little words that make a big difference for outdoor workers during the hot summer months," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.