Three months ago, we launched a new challenge to make use of one of our nation’s greatest resources – the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American public. Innovation has always been inspired by economic and technological challenges in our communities, classrooms and businesses. At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we are committed to devoting that same ingenuity towards improving the safety and health of America’s workforce. We are always looking for better and more efficient ways to protect workers from injury and illness on the job.
New technologies have the promise of making our safety and health resources even more accessible for workers and employers. That is why I am excited about the progress of the Workplace Safety & Health App Challenge. Developers, students and anyone else with a little tech savvy and creativity have the opportunity to enter a contest to develop apps that demonstrate the importance of workplace safety and health, and help young people understand their rights in the workplace. Successful apps could take many different forms: interactive and informative games, social or professional networking sites, or data visualization tools that teach young people about safety and health hazards.
At OSHA, we recognized that we can leverage technology to help empower workers directly. For our nationwide outreach campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses, we created a mobile app to help workers stay safe while performing a hard day’s work outdoors. The heat safety tool allows workers and employers to view the risk level for outdoor work based on the heat index in their area; shows the signs and symptoms of heat illness; and provides first-aid information to save a life if heat illness strikes.
Every year, millions of young people are entering the workforce and deserve to know the rights and protections entitled to them. You can help us make that happen.
There is still one month left to submit entries to the Workplace Safety & Health App Challenge at http://www.challenge.gov/. The challenge is to use publicly available government information (i.e., DOL/OSHA data, NIOSH data, and other online government resources) to educate young workers on the safety and health risks in real work scenarios.
And there are prizes, too. A panel of judges that includes Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, co-hosts of the popular Discovery Channel show “Myth Busters,” will award $15,000 for the “Safety in the Workplace Innovator Award,” $6,000 for the “Safety and Health Data Award” and $6,000 for the “Workers’ Rights Award.” There is also a “People’s Choice Award” of $3,000 for the developer of the app that receives the most public votes on the website. The deadline to enter is September 16, 2012.
It’s clear that engaging the ingenuity of the public can make important inroads in addressing many of today’s important issues. The culture of workplace safety and health affects all of us, young and old, and it is inspiring to see the public take the mission of OSHA to heart, and to help America improve workplaces for today’s workers as well as future generations.
Dr. David Michaels is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.