OSHA unveils new hot app – no, really, it’s an app warning of hot weather

A phone app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns workers and others who will be outside as summer heats up of risks of heat-related illness, and provides preventive steps. (Photo by Nick Wicksman)

Editors Note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of one of the sources. The source, the safety director for Phoenix-based construction company Kitchell, is Josh Welp. The story below has been revised to reflect the correct information. Clients who used this story are asked to run the correction that can be found here.

WASHINGTON – Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials had a message Wednesday for workers and others who expect to be outside working and playing as summer heats up: Shade, water and rest for safety.

And if that’s too much to remember, OSHA has an app for that.

The federal agency has actually had OSHA Heat app since 2011, but it recently unveiled an updated version of the free phone app that provides users with a heat index for a particular location and gives precautions to help prevent heat-related illnesses.

With more than 600 heat-related work deaths since 1999, and just as many deaths of children in roughly the same period, according to the Department of Labor, reminding people to stay cool and hydrated is serious business.

“Young men are most at risk, they’re the ones out working under the sun, and they think they’re immortal,” said Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels. “Of the 650 heat related deaths from 1999 to 2009, 69 percent of them were male”

Michaels and National Weather Service Deputy Director Laura Furgione were on a conference call Wednesday to talk about the app and that threat of heat-related illnesses.

The OSHA app is available for both Android and iOS devices and has been downloaded more than 200,000 times – a record for a federal government created application – since its 2011 debut. The upgraded version has been redesigned to provide new graphics and improved accessibility, among other changes.

But the app has already helped educate and inform thousands on the dangers of extreme heat – including some in Arizona.

“All our field personnel have the app,” said Josh Welp, safety director for Phoenix-based construction company Kitchell. “It gives them the information they need quickly and easily , which is exactly what they need.”

Welp said the app helps his company teach its employees and contractors about symptoms of illness, gives risk levels and tools to help prevent heat-related illnesses from occurring in the first place.

“It provides everything I need for what I’m looking for,” he said.

The app could be especially pertinent to Arizona, where temperatures only look to rise in coming weeks.

“Looking ahead at the outlook in Arizona, the temperature is going to be above average temp for the next 10 to 15 days, so that’s something to be aware of,” Furgione said.

Jessie Atencio, assistant director and consultation and training program manager for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in an email that the OSHA Heat app is worth it if any injuries or illnesses are prevented at all from its use.

“We believe that if any injuries or illnesses are prevented with a free tool such as this, it is worth it,” Atencio said.