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OSHA’s Safety-Tool App Gets Big-Time Heat from Critics of Wayward Spending

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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Critics of wayward spending decisions by the government are having a field day with an OSHA smart-phone app that lets workers who toil in the out of doors know when hot weather presents a threat to health and safety.

“A half-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded thermometer?” asked The Foundry, an online publication produced by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

OSHA app
How hot is it? OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool can tell you, and it only cost $643,997.60 to develop.

“Wonder if it’s too hot to go outside at your workplace?” a story in The Foundry goes on to inquire. “Don’t bother checking the thermometer or stepping outside—the federal government has the answer for you. And it’s only costing taxpayers $643,997.60.” (See Half-Million-Dollar Thermometer.)

The introduction of the “Heat Safety Tool” was announced during the dog days of summer, last August.

“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,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in the OSHA announcement on the app.

Durability + Design did its part in announcing the news, with OSHA Says ‘Heat Safety Tool’ Mobile App Monitors Heat Index on Work Sites.

Construction workers, landscapers and roofers were listed by OSHA as having some of the highest heat-related illness rates.

The mobile app is available in English and Spanish and combines heat-index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user’s location to determine necessary protective measures.

Sparks Fly

Sparking all the fireworks about OSHA’s spending on the “Heat Safety Tool” was a Freedom of Information Act request by Americans for Limited Government. The FOI inquiry found that the development of the tool and related web technologies cost $643,997.60. Funding came from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus program.

“It is obscene that Obama’s Labor Department wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a mobile application to alert workers that it is hot, presumably something they would know based upon their being outside,” Rick Manning, director of communication for Americans for Limited Government, told The Daily Caller in a story on the group’s probe of the app project.

A number of other publications joined in the chorus of derision of OSHA and the Obama administration. The pundits made hay not just with the expenditure involved, but with OSHA’s assertions about the app’s usefulness.

“Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they may take, such as taking rest breaks, drinking fluids and adjusting work operations,” OSHA said.

In its report on OSHA’s alleged app folly, Americans for Limited Government said the program is “apparently made for robots who are unable to feel temperature, and as such must be told that it is too hot (or cold) out by another machine.” (See OSHA app tells outdoor workers it’s too hot.)

“This is absolutely infuriating, especially because that money was funded by hard-working Americans who would like to see their tax dollars go towards programs that help improve their lives, not a downloadable application that has less use than a paddle-ball toy,” wrote Rebecca DiFede, a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.


Tagged categories: Apps; Commercial contractors; Contractors; Equipment; Funding; General contractors; Government; Home builders; Industrial Contractors; OSHA; Painters; Residential contractors; Smartphones; Subcontractors; Tools

Comment from Phil Kabza, (2/8/2012, 9:13 AM)

Sounds like the kind of objections you could expect from political critics who work in air conditioned offices and always schedule early tee times in hot weather. Bet they never got heat stroke forming footings in an excavation hole in 100 deg. heat. Such a jobsite tool might provide workers some protection against overzealous supervisors more interested in meeting schedules than meeting worker safety requirements. Reaching for an issue here.

Comment from Chuck Beckman, (2/8/2012, 6:24 PM)

It would be good if employers would enforce themselves so that the government would not have to step in. I figure if you don't take care of your business, someone is going to do it for you on thier own terms and send you the bill.

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