Heat Stress

Heat stress is the inability of the body to rid itself of excess heat as the result of working in a hot environment, especially when humidity levels are high.

Heat Stress

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with heat stress?

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

What can I do to protect myself?

Avoid heavy exertion, extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these cannot be avoided, some of the preventative steps that can be taken include:

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
  • Take more breaks when doing heavier work, and in high heat and humidity; take breaks in the shade or a cool area.
  • Drink water frequently.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Training and Outreach Services

A heat stress presentation is available to assist employers in training their staff. The presentation should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. Other example presentations are available along with pre-recorded webinars which can be accessed at any time.  Further, a heat stress podcast provided by the NC Department of Labor provides more useful information.

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

The NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

Safety and Health Programs

In addition, the example agricultural heat stress prevention program can assist employers in the agriculture industry with their heat stress program and is also available in Spanish. This heat illness prevention program can be used by employers in general industry or construction for indoor or outdoor hazardous heat conditions.  Other example safety and health programs are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions.   

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.


Which standards apply?

There are no OSHA or N.C. occupational safety and health standards for heat. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Duty Clause

In certain circumstances, heat-related hazards may be cited using N.C. General Statute 95-129(1), commonly referred to as the “General Duty Clause.”  

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite

Where can I learn more?

Hazard Alerts

Compliance Documents

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

Inquiries about workplace safety and health requirements can be submitted to Ask OSH through the online form, by email to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov, or by phone at 919-707-7876.