In my time at the Department of Labor, I’ve been impressed by the way our mission to protect workers has been energized and accelerated when we have opened up our process to the innovative ideas of the American public. We’ve already used the government’s public challenge platform – http://www.challenge.gov/ – to help us develop apps through the informACTION challenge and gather photographs that tell the story of worker safety and health. These collaborations were a great way for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to team up with some of the most visionary and passionate minds in the country on solutions that will ultimately save workers’ lives.
That’s why I’m grateful to be involved in the White House Office of Science and Technology announcement of Safety.Data.gov. This new website was launched today with the Department of Transportation as part of Transportation Safety Week. Safety.Data.Gov provides citizens, industry representatives, advocates, researchers and entrepreneurs with tools to create innovative solutions that will enhance public safety in communities around the country. A series of other initiatives are also being released, spurring the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people to help better inform and protect our citizens.
As part of this launch, Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris this morning announced a new app challenge meant to provide workers, advocates and employers with a vital tool for safety. The Worker Safety and Health Challenge asks developers to utilize government data to create applications for several platforms that address one or both of the following categories: tools that demonstrate the importance of knowing about workplace safety and health and/or tools that help young people understand their rights in the workplace. You can get all the details at http://workersafetyhealth.challenge.gov/.
The grand prize “Safety in the Workplace Innovator Award” will grant $15,000 and a meet and greet with Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis to the developer of the app that best meets both of these categories. A “Safety and Health Data Award” and a “Workers Rights Award” of $6,000 each will be given for both individual categories, and a “People’s Choice Award” of $3,000 will go to the developer of the app that has the most public votes on the site. Winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges, including Secretary Solis, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and a high-profile group of tech and safety experts (I’ll be on the panel, too).
At OSHA, we are always looking for better and more efficient ways to ensure all workers know about their lawful right to a safe and healthful workplace. The increasing use of technology by the federal government to open this process to the public’s talents and the indelible civic spirit across the country is one terrific way for us to find those solutions. I’m eager to see what the products look like this time, and I welcome everyone who chooses to participate. Together, we are engaged an effort to achieve no less vital a goal than saving the lives of young people.
Contestants must register for the contest at http://www.challenge.gov/ by creating an account between May 16, 2012, at 12:00 a.m. EDT, and September 16, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Registrants will receive an email to verify their account and may then enter their submissions via the “Post a Submission” tab.
Dr. David Michaels is assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.