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App tracks whether employers should be working in the heat

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 20:42:44-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Wayne Pierce shut his tow truck’s door and turned on the air conditioner on full blast on Tuesday.

It was a hot day out, Pierce said it came with a lot of sweating and trying to stay cool.

Pierce is a wrecking operator for 'Apollo Towing Service', and on a hot day, he said the key to staying cool is being quick.

“When we’re out there working we try to get the vehicle loaded at least within ten minutes,” Pierce said.

Some of his equipment like the truck’s flatbed can get extremely hot, so he has to be careful when hooking up a car.

Wayne’s manager, Justin Watson, uses the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool app.

“It’ll have basically a meter showing the least dangerous to the most dangerous temperatures,” Watson said as he explained the app.

The app reads the heat index in his location, which is what the temperature feels like outside.

It tells him when it’s too hot for his employees to be working outside. It also lists symptoms of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Watson uses the app so he knows when his employees should be taking breaks.

“Anything that takes more time, we’re always looking at that app and making sure ok, we’re in the danger zone. We’re going to alter our procedures. Instead of every 30 minutes, we’re going to drop it down to every 15 minutes,” Watson said.

When the app tells him it’s very hot, he’ll put extra wreck operators out on a scene if he knows employees will be outside for a long time. They have enough workers to rotate them for breaks when needed.

OSHA’s assistant regional administrator for cooperative and state programs Candra Jefferson said the summer is when they receive the most complaints from employees working out in the heat for too long.

While employees are not required to use the app, and can’t report the employer on the app itself,people using the app can use their website or call them to file a complaint.

In some cases, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who refuses to work in the heat.

“We evaluate complaints on a case-by-case basis and when the complaint is deemed valid, we will investigate,” Jefferson said.