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June 24, 2013
Mobile apps for safety on the go
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

You probably know that ladders can pose a significant risk of injury if not used properly, but did you know there’s an app for that? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently announced the release of a smartphone application for ladder safety, available for free download on iPhone and Android devices.

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According to NIOSH, the app “uses visual and audio signals that make it easier for workers using extension ladders to check the angle the ladder is positioned at.” It gives the user feedback on positioning a ladder at the safest angle, and also provides references and a safety guide for extension ladder selection, inspection, accessorizing, and use.

So why does this matter to safety professionals? Falls from ladders are a common source of workplace injuries, particularly in construction, and positioning a ladder properly is key to preventing these injuries. If a ladder is set too steep, it can fall back or away during use, and if it is set too shallow, the bottom can slide out. NIOSH’s app aims to address this problem by helping those responsible for safe ladder use find the best position to minimize risk.

For more information and to download the app, visit NIOSH’s website.

An app for heat safety, too

Ladder safety isn’t the only topic with an app. OSHA offers a heat safety tool, available for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android. The app allows a user to calculate a heat index for a worksite and provides information about appropriate protective measures. The heat index, which takes both temperature and humidity into account, is typically considered a better measure of risk for heatstroke and other heat-related conditions than temperature alone.

Among the information included in the app:

  • Signs and symptoms of heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke
  • First aid and preventive measures for heat-related illness
  • Guidelines for water consumption, training, and gradual acclimatization to hot conditions
  • Risk factors for heat-related illness

For more information and to download the app, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.

More safety apps on the way

As smartphones and mobile technology become increasingly important to people’s daily routines, both government agencies and private companies will likely expand their mobile offerings.

One that’s currently under development is a mobile version of the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG). The print version of that publication, which is NIOSH’s most popular document, provides descriptive, exposure, protective, and emergency recommendations for 677 chemicals commonly found in workplaces. In April, NIOSH published an article soliciting feedback from potential users on what features and content they would want in a mobile version of the NPG.

The bottom line

While mobile apps are convenient and helpful for certain tasks, it’s important to remember that they’re not a substitute for a fully developed safety program. Safety managers should use them as a supplement to the essential components of a safety system, including training, job hazard analysis, and more.

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