NSC Construction and Utilities Division news NSC Labor Division news Contractors Research/studies Workers' compensation Heat stress Construction Transportation Workplace exposures Transportation Construction

Workers’ comp costs climb as heat index rises: report


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation Flickr

Raleigh, NC — The longer the heat index remains above 90° F, the more employers may pay in workers’ compensation costs for missed workdays, a recent study of North Carolina workers shows.

Researchers commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council analyzed 2011-2018 National Council on Compensation Insurance data for workers in the state. They focused on four industries: agriculture, construction and erection, cartage and trucking, and commercial enterprises. 

When the four industries were examined together, findings showed a positive correlation between the annual number of hours with the heat index exceeding 90° F and workers’ comp claim costs for lost wages.

“In other words,” an NRDC press release states, “employers paid employees more during hot years for missed work days due to illness or injury from any cause.”

The correlation “was notably strong” in cartage and trucking, the release adds.

NRDC commissioned the report in part to “advocate for both federal and state workplace heat standards.” According to the council, about 51 million U.S. workers are employed in the six industries with the highest average annual number of heat-related fatalities. However, only around 9 million of them live in states with permanent standards on workplace heat exposure.

OSHA’s proposed rule on protecting workers from extreme heat exposure in indoor and outdoor settings is advancing. An agency spokesperson on June 22 told Safety+Health that OSHA recently initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel review, the next step before a proposed standard is published.

“Workers are protected from all kinds of hazards, such as ladder falls and electric shocks,” Juanita Constible, senior advocate for climate and health at NRDC, said in the release. “But federally and in most states – including in North Carolina – there are no such standards protecting workers from heat. That needs to be fixed, and fast.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)