OSHA and NIOSH release heat index app for outdoor workers

Summer temperatures in Minnesota can sometimes reach into the triple digits, and emergency room doctors in the state are often called upon to treat cases of heat exhaustion. Outdoor workers are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has collaborated with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop a smartphone application that could help employers to better protect their workers from debilitating conditions including potentially deadly heat strokes.

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool, which can be downloaded at no charge for use on both Android and Apple devices, uses data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide employers with accurate and timely climate information. The application also provides a heat index forecast and alerts employers when temperatures rise to dangerous levels. The Heat Safety Tool relies on geolocation technology to provide data appropriate for each user.

Employers can also reduce the chances of lost workdays caused by heat exhaustion by ensuring that workers are properly trained and are aware of the risks of working in extreme temperatures. Workers should also be provided with shaded areas to take breaks and an abundant supply of drinking water. OSHA data reveals that heat played a role in 18 worker deaths and 2,630 workplace illnesses in 2014.

Workers generally submit workers' compensation claims after being injured in workplace accidents or becoming sick after being exposed to toxic substances while on the job, but attorneys with experience in this area could suggest filing personal injury lawsuits instead when workers developed heat-related conditions due to the gross negligence of their employers. Employers are expected to take all reasonable precautions to protect their workers from harm, and they could be ordered to pay punitive as well as compensatory damages when their behavior was so reckless that injuries became inevitable.

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