The Government's $200,000 Useless Android Application

Rich Jones of, regarding the "Heat Safety Tool" mobile app that OSHA recently released. Great use of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request:

[…] When I first tried the application, it told me that it was currently 140F in Boston. It is also extremely slow, it looks like butt, and it crashes all the time. It is completely horrible in every way. If I had to reproduce it, I'd say that it would take be about 6 hours at the maximum. At my hourly rate of $100, that's $600. […] Still, I was curious about how much we taxpayers payed for the program - and it knocked me off my feet.


After a few weeks of waiting (which is exceptionally short in the FOIA world, and OSHA should be commended for that), I received a response. The application cost $106,467 for the Android version, and an additional $96,000 for the iPhone and (non-existent) BlackBerry version. That's more than $200,000 for less than $2,000 worth of non-functional temperature converters.

Elsewhere on the Internet, Rafe Colburn tracked down the source of the offending application, attempting to see whether the apps were a matter of low-effort/high-cost fleecing, or a genuine effort by honest people.

His post has a fairly good step-through of just how bad the app is, inside and out. In the end, the OSHA Heat Safety Tool falls pretty short:

The first thing that stood out to me was that the variable name of the SAX content handler is myExampleHandler. A quick Google search revealed that they just copied that part of the code from this blog post and didn’t bother to change the variable names or the comments. That’s a pretty clear indicator that the code was not written by a professional who cares about their work.


I went into this thinking that maybe everybody involved was honest and the bad result was due to flaws in the process, but now I think it’s pretty clear that ERG sold the OSHA a false bill of goods and wound up fleecing them pretty badly. I hope it’s not too late to get their money back.