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.
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. Additional information about heat stress can also be accessed through a heat stress podcast from the NC Department of Labor.
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. The heat illness prevention program can be used by employers in general industry or construction for indoor or outdoor hazardous heat conditions.
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?
Additional information on heat stress can be found in the heat stress hazard alert.
NCDOL Investigates: Heat Stress Event discusses what triggers a heat stress investigation and how the investigation is conducted.
Operational Procedure Notice: OPN 141 - Inspection Guidance for Conducting Heat-Related Illness Inspections and Issuing Citations establishes enforcement policy and provides an explanation of the application of the General Duty Clause to ensure uniform enforcement.
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, highlights the requirements of standards related to construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, provides requirements for standards related to general industry.
Industry Guide 50 - OSHA Agriculture Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, highlights the requirements of standards related to agriculture.
Industry Guide 53 - OSHA Shipyard Employment Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, highlights the requirements of standards related to shipyard employment.
Industry Guide 54 - OSHA Marine Terminal Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, highlights the requirements of standards related to marine terminals.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to email@example.com or by calling 919-707-7876.