The Occupational Safety and Health Administration knows better than most how truly dangerous this record-breaking heat wave is for those who work outside – and after issuing warnings and helpful tips on combating heat exposure and heat stroke, people on the job and at work are still succumbing to the heat, turning up in Emergency Rooms or in job-site calls to EMS after they’ve been harmed by heat.
Mobile App To Protect Workers from Heat-Related Illness
Today, Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor, announced that the federal government is providing a free application for phones which gives both workers and their employers the ability to check the job site’s heat index from their phone.
It is available in English and Spanish, and was designed by combining various heat temperature data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the phone’s location to provide the job site’s heat index.
The app is designed for devices using an Android platform (go here for details on Android phones), and versions for BlackBerries and iPhones are on their way. To download the heat index phone app, go here.
Workers In Danger from Heat in Two Ways
As OSHA explains to employers on its website, workers on the job can get overheated and at risk for heat injury because of two heat sources hitting them at the same time:
- the environmental conditions in which they work (external heat) and
- the internal heat generated by physical labor (internal heat).
Workers on the job in high temperatures will still build up heat inside their bodies as they exert themselves physically. Heat-related illnesses and wrongful deaths happen when supervisors aren’t protecting their crews from hot temperatures.
When a worker’s body is not able to lose enough heat that has built up internally (sweating, breathing heavily, etc.) to balance the heat generated by the outside temperatures, then he or she can suffer from heat exposure, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death.
Heat Sneaks Up On Workers – Careful Monitoring Is Needed, This Phone App is a Good Thing for Supervisors to Have
No one can trust their body to let them know when the heat is getting to be too much for them; that is one of the dangers of heat exposure: it creeps up on you. Having the ability to check your phone at work, to monitor the heat index and then act accordingly: get in the shade for awhile, drink some water, is important.
Workers need to be able to protect themselves even when supervisors aren’t — better a legal fight later over an employee being fired or held insubordinate for avoiding heat stroke than a negligent employer letting his crew members get sick, seriously injured, or killed because he didn’t take the dangers of heat seriously.
“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 Solis. “Heat-related illnesses are preventable. This new app is just one way the Labor Department is getting that message out.”
Adds Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels, “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.”
Legal Remedies for Workers Hurt or Killed By 2011 Heat Exposure on the Job
If workers aren’t protected by their employers from heat related injuries, then they have legal remedies under worker’s compensation and other laws. If a tragic death should occur due to heat stroke or other heat-related illness, then Wrongful Death actions are available to the surviving loved ones under Indiana and Illnois law.
Hopefully, these new free phone aps will help employers and supervisors do the right thing in the future and protect their people and not their profits. It’s been really, really hot out there this year.