There are a number of workplaces and environments that have high risk of health problems from work-related heat exposure, including brick and ceramic plants, iron and steel foundries, rubber factories, mining sites, smelters, and food canneries, among others.
The human body is meant to stay at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, but when the temperature rises and the body’s natural cooling mechanism is unable to adjust appropriately due to factors like high humidity and minimal air flow – like in the environments mentioned above – employees can suffer health risks that in some cases, can be quite severe.
Heat Exhaustion is characterised by:
- Increased heart rate
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
Heat Stroke carries more serious risks. Symptoms include:
- A high body temperature of 104 degrees
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of sweat
- Bright red skin that is hot to touch
With the summer months fast approaching, it is important that you make the necessary preparations to ensure that your warehouse is safe for your employees. Here are a few steps to help you accomplish this:
- Ensure proper ventilation by installing ceiling fans to maintain sufficient air flow. High volume – low speed (HVLS) fans are particularly well suited for covering huge chunks of square footage.
- Use dehumidifiers – they take moisture from the air to deliver a cooling effect.
- Install portable industrial fans in high activity areas, like the packing stations.
- Ensure that the walls and ceilings of your buildings are properly insulated.
- Rent or purchase portable air conditioners, which is a more efficient and cost-effective process compared to air conditioning the entire building. Additionally, you can easily direct air to the areas it is most needed.
- Keep your machinery running efficiently. Things like conveyor friction and hot running motors increase the temperature inside the warehouse.
- Ensure that the dock doors are well sealed, and consider using truck shelters to keep the hot outdoor conditions out.
- Roll-up screen doors so the air can circulate properly without allowing vermin or pests inside.
- Turn up the AC. Though energy costs are high, and running the air conditioner further increases the cost, allowing the work space to overheat is likely to reduce productivity and increase the risk of accidents.
- Consider separating different areas of the warehouse using vinyl strip curtains to keep the hot air from one section moving into another section.
- Consider installing a cool roof. It will not only keep your indoors cooler in the heat of summer, but also reduce your energy costs.
Lastly, consider purchasing medical supplies and establishing first aid procedures so people know how to respond when an accident occurs, like fainting, or when heat-related symptoms begin to show. You may also place signs to remind your employees to stay safe and drink plenty of water.