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High temperatures are getting hotter and sticking around longer. The question isn’t ‘if’ we will have another record-breaking heat wave in North Carolina, it is ‘when?’ All workers, indoors or outside, have the right to a safe workplace. The time is now for workers and supervisors to be proactive on heat sickness prevention.

All employers and their workforces should have heat safety regulations to follow. While all industries deserve this, it is especially pertinent to labor-intensive industries such as agriculture, construction, and landscaping. When it comes to worker safety, suggestions and guidelines aren’t enough. Heat kills.

Currently, there are few rules or laws that protect North Carolina workers from the effects of heat sickness. NC business owners deserve guidance on how to keep their workforce healthy and safe. It is time for the NC Department of Labor to use its statutory rule-making ability to work with private industry and worker groups to craft a NC heat safety regulation that effectively and efficiently provides common-sense protections that work for our state.

While different industries have different needs for their respective workforces, I believe there are at least four universal areas that all industries need to consider: prevention planning, escalation training, water, and shade.

  1. Prevention Planning: Any good response comes from a good plan. Development of a heat sickness prevention plan with emergency response procedures, including language translated into the languages that the workforce communicates in, is integral.

  2. Escalation Training: A plan can only be implemented through training. Supervisors and employees must learn how to recognize signs to prevent heat sickness and know what actions to take if signs of heat sickness do pop up in the workplace.

  3. Water: Fresh, clean, drinkable water and a drinking vessel should be made available where work is being done in high heat conditions.

  4. Shade: Outside workers need protection from direct sunlight, and indoor workers need refuge from high heat conditions. Sometimes, something as simple as a tent is the difference between life and death for our workers.

While all of these may seem like common practices that businesses must surely be following already, too many are not. Just last fall, a farmworker in Nash County displayed signs of heat sickness. The farm owners and workers did not have a prevention plan, nor escalation training. He was provided with no drinking vessel and no shade. Just a hot bus in the sun to rest in. He lost his life on the job that day.


Work can be tough, but it should never be deadly. Heat related deaths are almost always preventable. There is more that we can do to protect our workforces. When I am Commissioner of Labor I will ensure that the North Carolina Department of Labor does, in fact, do more.

Vote for Braxton statewide on TUESDAY, November 5, 2024.

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