On April 8, 2022, federal OSHA began a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) on indoor and outdoor heat exposure. This NEP will last for three (3) years. North Carolina, a “Plan State” with its own OSHA regulations, has 60 days to inform federal OSHA whether the state will adopt the NEP or draft its own. If the State chooses to develop its own NEP, it must be at least as restrictive as the federal program. As yet, the North Carolina Department of Labor has not announced its decision. The NEP will focus on those industries with the highest rate of heat-related injuries and death, including the construction industry.
Under the NEP, all employees must be closely observed by a supervisor or designee during a heatwave. A “heatwave” is defined to mean any day in which the predicted high temperature for the day will be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average high daily temperature during the preceding five (5) days. Any employee newly hired or assigned to a high heat area must be closely observed by a supervisor and designee for the first 14 days of employment.
The employer is required to provide shade for all workers when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers must always maintain 1 or more areas of shade while employees are present that are open to the air or provided with ventilation or cooling. The amount of shade provided must be sufficient to accommodate the number of employees on recovery, rest periods, or during meals onsite.
Potable drinking water must be made available at no cost to all employees. The employer must maintain sufficient quantities of pure, cool potable drinking water. “Sufficient quantities” of water are defined as at least 1 quart per employee per hour for an entire shift.