There are many issues of productivity and safety that come into sharp focus as the heat rises in summer. As temperatures start to rise, it gets particularly hot in warehouses and distribution centres where air conditioning isn’t in operation or very effective. Experts say that employee productivity increases when ambient temperatures are comfortable and plummets when they aren’t. Picking error rates climb and safety is compromised as workers fight through hot, sweaty conditions. Here are some ways you can go about combating the rigours of the summer heatwave in order to protect your warehouse material handlers operatives
1. Cool down the warehouse with HVLS fans
If you can’t install air-conditioning, then consider installing large warehouse ceiling fans, which will cool large amounts of square footage for relatively low costs. One of the most productive methods is to employ high volume, low speed fans. Warehouses have very high ceilings and vast spaces that are often reconfigured when stock and materials change. Industrial ceiling fans are much better at ventilation and providing a consistently cooler area. These fans continuously mix incoming fresh air with stale air, minimising the total amount of ventilation required to achieve adequate air quality. No other fan, system, or ventilation technology does this better. Most of the time, these fans are ceiling-mounted, but newer wall-mounted fans have been introduced to work specifically in harder to reach areas like taller rows of racks.
When used as a stand-alone cooling system, they can reduce the temperature to yield an effective cooling of up to 8° F less within the fan’s coverage area (up to 20,000 square feet per 24′ fan). When used in conjunction with an air conditioning system, its slow and steady air flow can reduce or eliminate the need for costly and efficiency-reducing A/C duct work.
2. Prepare & service conveyor for the heat
Poor traction and subsequent friction leads to heat generation and conveyor systems have many friction points. With the hot summer weather, higher than normal temperatures in rotating or moving conveyor parts becomes a big issue. Heat also expands, which is another challenge that it presents to machinery in general, and conveyors in particular. So here are four suggestions –
A) Check the bearing seals more frequently
B) Check the reducer oil periodically
C) Keep a close eye on the motor and watch for potential overheating. In the summer heat, the amp draw will rise. Use the ampmeter to check this
D) Realize that heat also affects conveyor belts, depending on the type. Watch belts for slippage and tracking issues. Some may even become tacky in extreme heat.
3. Treat each employee on their individual merit
Understand that all employees are not equally heat resistant and treat them on an individual basis. Employees should be allowed to assess their own conditioning and how well they handle heat. Employees who are taking certain prescription medications or have certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, need to pay special attention to how they feel while working. Employees who are new to manual work, like school leavers and student summer holiday workers are often most susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Try to ease them into the normal workload gradually, until you’re confident they are acclimated.
4. Drink plenty of water & recognize the symptoms of dehydration
The risks of heat exhaustion and heat stroke escalate massively in summer in a warehouse. Employees should be trained / instructed on how to avoid heat stress in hot, humid warehouse environments. Working conditions involving high air temperatures and high humidity, radiant heat sources, contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities can induce heat stress. Not only is there risk for heat related issues, the frequency of accidents appears to be higher in hot environments than in more moderate environmental conditions since working in a hot condition reduces mental alertness and physical performance. Simple heat discomfort can cause workers to overlook safety procedures. This also causes mistakes, errors and lowers productivity.
The biggest factor is that people working in the heat should consume a high volume of water through the working day / night and take the time to cool off whenever possible. Warehouse workers should wear light, loose fitting clothes. Most importantly, everyone involved should be trained to recognise heat stress symptoms. Provide additional water stations during the hotter months, at more convenient locations, and encourage employees to drink water every 15 minutes or so, based on temperature.
5. Use strip doors & partitions to segment plant areas & control points of climate control “bleed”
You can maintain an open dock door without air conditioning. Your dock doors are typically the largest siphon on a cooled internal climate, constantly bringing sun-scorched air and heat into a cooler facility. Vinyl Strip Doors and Curtains control the environment of a defined area very efficiently. When installed on a frequently-used dock door, they keep the hot air outside and the cool air inside. The best thing is to keep dock doors closed when not in use, but that isn’t always possible. They’re also great for segmenting cooled areas from hotter areas. They allow foot or motorised traffic to pass and can be configured for just about any size opening from a cooler door to a dock door.