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Occupational Requirements Survey

Environmental conditions

PDF version

Environmental conditions refer to the various tangible or concrete hazards or difficulties that are in the vicinity of workers when completing critical tasks. Data elements provide a systematic means to describe surroundings or conditions experienced by workers as they perform critical tasks. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is identified for occupations that have exposure to hazardous contaminants; moving mechanical parts; heights; and loud noises. The duration of exposure workers have to these conditions are identified if exposure is not completely mitigated by PPE.

This document offers a general overview and basic descriptions of the environmental conditions that are collected and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS).


  • Extreme cold
    • Exposure to non-weather related temperatures that are:

      • 40 degrees or colder if the exposure is 2/3 or more of the workday
      • 32 degrees or colder if the exposure is for less than 2/3 of the workday
      Worker in icy freezer   Exposure to extreme cold example  
  • Extreme heat
    • Exposure to non-weather related temperatures that exceed:

      • 85 degrees in a humid atmosphere
      • 90 degrees in a dry atmosphere
      Person wearing heat-resistant clothing while standing near burning flames   Chef cooking with fire  
  • Hazardous contaminants
    • Exposure to a substance that negatively affects the respiratory system, eyes, skin or other living tissue via inhalation, ingestion, or contact.

      Exposure to hazardous contaminants   Worker painting a building   Worker spraying chemicals on crops  
  • Heavy vibrations
    • Exposure to a shaking object or surface that causes a strain on the body or extremities.

      Heavy vibration example   Heavy vibration example  
  • Heights
    • Exposure to possible bodily injury from falling.

      Construction worker exposed to heights   Worker on satellite tower  
  • Humidity
    • Non-weather related exposure to conditions where the air contains a high amount of water or water vapor and the atmosphere is oppressive.

      Worker inspecting plants in greenhouse  
  • Noise intensity level
    • The noise intensity level to which the worker is exposed in the job:


      Sign posted inside a library asking patrons to turn off cell phones  


      People dining at a cafe  


      Fans cheering while at a stadium  

      Very loud

      Construction workers using jackhammers  
  • Outdoors
    • Job requires work outdoors with workers unprotected and exposed to the elements. This does not include the commute to or from work.

      Man trimming shrubs outdoors   Delivery driver dropping off a package  
  • Proximity to moving mechanical parts
    • Operation of or proximity to moving materials, mechanical parts, settings, or any moving objects (most commonly moving machinery or equipment) that could cause bodily harm.

      Man sawing lumber in a woodshop   Moving mechanical parts example  
  • Wetness
    • Any non-weather related contact with water or other liquids.

      Person pressure washing a patio   Person manually washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen   People washing a car