Report: Extreme Heat Costs North Carolina Workers and Employers

 North Carolina Workers, Employers would Benefit from State Heat Standards 

RALEIGH, NC — According to a new report, North Carolina employers may be paying higher workers compensation claim costs in years with more hot weather. The Excessive Heat in North Carolina report found a link between extreme heat exposure in four major industries and avoidable costs to employers, including increased worker compensation for missed wages. The report was prepared by Milliman and commissioned by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The report’s key findings include:

  • When all four industries (agriculture, construction/erection, cartage/trucking, and commercial enterprises) were considered together, there was a positive correlation between the annual number of hours with a heat index above 90°F and workers compensation claim costs for lost wages. In other words, employers paid employees more during hot years for missed work days due to illness or injury from any cause.
  • The strongest relationships between heat and workers compensation costs for lost wages were in the cartage/trucking industry (such as package delivery and ambulance service workers) and commercial enterprises (such as warehouse workers and gas station attendants). The positive correlation between hot years and the severity of lost wage claims (i.e. the cost per claim) was notably strong in cartage/trucking.
  • Based on the available sample data, cartage/trucking was the only industry to show a significant positive correlation between heat and workers compensation claims for medical costs.
  • Outside the workers compensation system, heat was correlated with healthcare use by the general population immediately after extreme heat events and for up to three months later.  However, the observed relationship depended on a complex interaction between heat, an individual’s other health conditions, and socioeconomic factors such as living conditions and access to healthcare.

“Workers are protected from all kinds of hazards, such as ladder falls and electric shocks. 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, especially as climate change makes heat season ever more brutal in the Southeast and across the country,” said Juanita Constible, Senior Advocate for Climate & Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The report makes clear that the avoidable costs of workplace heat exposure, such as missed work time and emergency room visits, are considerable in four of the most heat-exposed industries in North Carolina.”

“Everyone has the right to a safe and healthy workplace.  We should be doing everything we can to avoid preventable injuries at work like those caused by exposure to high temperatures,” said Clermont Fraser Ripley, Workers’ Rights Project Co-Director at the North Carolina Justice Center. “We should be doing everything we can to avoid preventable injuries at work like those caused by exposure to high temperatures.”

For more information, read the NRDC blog.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.