NIOSH, OSHA update heat safety app for outdoor workers

June 19, 2017 -  By
Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), along with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated and redesigned its Heat Safety Tool, an app developed to help workers stay safe when working outdoors in hot weather.

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, determines heat index values—a measure for how hot it feels—based on temperature and humidity.

The free app uses the device’s geolocation capabilities to pull temperature and humidity data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites to determine the heat index. The app 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.

“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 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.”

Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard. Each year more than 65,000 people seek medical treatment for extreme heat exposure. In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat-related illness, and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to OSHA.

In October 2016, OSHA cited an Indiana landscaping company, Townsend Tree Service, for the heatstroke death of a 23-year-old crewmember.

“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.”

In addition to calculating the heat index, the app provides users with specific NIOSH and OSHA recommendations for protection against the heat based on the calculated risk level. This includes information about staying cool, proper hydration and scheduling rest breaks. Recommendations are based on the 2016 publication “NIOSH Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Heat and Hot Environments.”


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