Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry


August 14, 2012

Smart phones

Using Apps for workplace safety and health

By Barry Moreland

I recently phoned a colleague and was directed to his voicemail. His message contained the basic details, but had an unusual direction to try his pager number. His pager number? Most of us transitioned from pagers to mobile phones sometime in the 1990s. From there we later upgraded to PDAs, then smart phones, and now tablet devices seem to be the norm. An advantage of using tablets and smart phones is that they can be used for much more than communication through the use of mobile applications.

Applications for these devices, once developed to enhance social media and other entertainment programs, now are readily available for business and productivity functions. Developers have even created some useful applications for those managing safety and health.

Applications like Sitedocs, iAuditor, and iJSA are options for conducting site hazard audits, creating risk assessment checklists, exporting this information via e-mail or archived using cloud technology, and performing employee safety training.

iRigging , Crane and Rigger, and Knots are apps that can aid those planning or performing lift activities.

For chemical hazards and OSHA hazard communication compliance, MSDS Apptionary, Chem Alert, and NIOSH Pocket Guide can be used for preparation, application, and emergency response when using chemicals in the workplace.

To address communication issues for those who work alone, Safety Grid or SOS Panic Button automatically calls or e-mails several user-specified contacts with just the push of a single button.

Apps for electrical safety are a bit limited, but NFPA 70E 2012 Changes as well as apps from fuse and breaker manufacturers, like Platt and Littlefuse, can aid in performing a shock/arc-flash hazard analysis.

Even simple apps such as Flashlight, Light Meter, and Noise Meter have their place in aiding workplace inspections and safety. Keep in mind that, while useful, these apps cannot replace an actual calibrated instrument designed to take measurements for compliance purposes.

Many of these apps are free, some charge for full functionality, and others cost anywhere from $1 to $50. Those described in this article were found on Apple's AppStore and may not be compatible with all mobile devices.

Apps have a time and place. On a recent job walk, I witnessed an apprentice using his iPhone level app to determine if his conduit was installed properly. While that was definitely the wrong tool for the job, the use of apps to enhance your overall safety program should be considered.

Barry Moreland ( is safety director for the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center.

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