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Alert, App Help Workers Beat the Heat

Friday, June 26, 2015

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WASHINGTON--With summer in full swing, the health risks to painters, inspectors, construction workers and others working outside are rising with the temperatures.

This year, federal authorities are responding with a new warning for employers and a new app to help gauge the danger to employees.

The warnings and the enhanced technology come from Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Weather Service, which are teaming up for a fifth year to protect workers who labor in excessive heat.


Preventing heat illness and death requires water, shade, rest and acclimatization—common-sense measures that some employers still ignore, according to OSHA.

Dozens of workers die and thousands fall ill each year from working in the heat, federal officials say. About one-third of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry.

The App

This summer's federal heat-safety campaign includes new updates to OSHA's Heat Safety Tool phone app, available for both Android and iPhone.

The app, released this month, allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index at their worksite and, based on the heat index, see the risk level to outdoor workers.

The app also includes measures to prevent heat illness and has been updated with full-screen color alerts, improved navigation and accessbility options, OSHA said. Almost 200,000 people have downloaded the app so far,

Photos: OSHA

OSHA's new Heat Tool app, updated and re-released this month, allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index at their worksite and, based on the heat index, see the risk level to outdoor workers. Nearly 200,000 users have downloaded the app.

Heat illness is easily prevented with water, rest and shade, officials note. But frequently, they say, these common-sense measures are ignored, especially when an employee is new and has not had time to acclimatize to the work conditions.

More information, including heat illness educational materials in English or Spanish, is available on OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention page.

For its part, the National Weather Service will be incorporating worker safety messages into its forecast. The NWS also assisted in developing and updating the app. The Weather Service also offers a wealth of heat resources and information on its Heat Safety page.

Mapping Heat Deaths

A Heat Fatalities Map developed by OSHA offers a partial look at the heat's toll on workers.

The victims include:

  • A Texas construction worker on a multifamily housing site;
  • A road paving worker from North Carolina who was found dead on the ground after a break;
  • A bulldozer operator in Pennsylvania;
  • An Oklahoma employee of a plastering and drywall contractor;
  • A Wisconsin man who collapsed and died while pouring a concrete patio; and
  • An Arkansas installer of synthetic turf at an outdoor football practice facility.

A partial Heat Fatality Map maintained by OSHA offers a snapshot of workers who succumbed to excessive heat.

In a media conference call June 10, OSHA Administrator David Michaels also told the story of Avery Haas, 41, who died after a four-hour stint reroofing an apartment complex near Urbana, IL. Although the ambient temperature was no more than 90 degrees, the heat index on the roof was 105, Michaels said.

Haas' employer, whom Michaels did not identify, "did not have an adequate heat illness prevention program," said Michaels.

"And that employer did not ensure that workers were getting enough water, rest, and shade. And that employer didn't train them in the prevention of heat illness."



Tagged categories: Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Regulations; Technology; Worker training

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