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Published On: Fri, Sep 19th, 2014

Simmer Down: Keeping Workers Cool When Temperatures Go Up

The mention of heatwaves and the UK didn’t use to be words used words together in the same sentence, but it seems hot summers leading to difficult working conditions may become a regular feature, if forecasters are to be believed.

Factory and warehouse workers are often particularly vulnerable to hot working conditions as they battle to contend with high temperatures outside adding to the heat levels on the shop floor.

Productivity and safety

There are a number of issues relating to productivity and worker safety that need to be addressed when the mercury rises beyond a certain point.

Water shutoffs to resume in Detroit photo D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA

photo D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA

Warehouses and distribution centres as well as factories, can be particularly prone to problems that are created when the temperature increases. Employee productivity often tends to achieve high levels when workers are operating within an environment that has an ambient temperature, and falls off noticeably when it heats up.

Things like picking error rates tend to increase and safety can sometimes be compromised as a result of workers trying to operate through hot and sweaty conditions. Air conditioning companies like Andrews can often provide the required solution to help you ensure that productivity and safety do not become an issue when you are trying to work in the midst of a heatwave.

Health and safety

As well as wanting to help your workers feel comfortable and able to do the job to the best of their ability, there is also a duty of care under health and safety regulations to consider.

Every employer is required to comply with current health and safety regulations which state that temperatures in the workplace are at a reasonable level at all times. The suggested temperature range is generally 16 degrees Celsius or 13 degrees if there is a lot of physical activity involved in the work.

The reason why the guidelines use the term reasonable temperature rather than specifying an actual legally required number is that it is difficult to apply a single figure that could be applied all the different types of working environments that people can face.

If the temperature was set at 16 degrees and you were required to do a lot of physical activity such as carrying and lifting boxes around all day, you would soon probably agree that a lower limit of 13 degrees would make you feel a bit more comfortable.

The health and safety of every worker is a primary consideration and anyone asked to work in unduly hot or unacceptably cold conditions, is protected by rights that say they can refuse to work under these conditions.

Temperature management

The vast majority of employers act responsibly and want to ensure the safety and comfort of their workers, so there are a number of ways in which they can achieve this aim.

Installing air-conditioning is generally accepted to be one of the most efficient ways of maintaining and regulating the temperature in a workplace, especially one with an industrial purpose. You could also look at cooling down a building such as a warehouse by installing HVLS fans.

High volume, low speed fans can cool relatively large areas of a warehouse for a fairly low capital outlay. Any building that has a high ceiling space will most likely benefit from better ventilation and cooler air, which can potentially be achieved using HVLS fans if you don’t have air-conditioning.

The fans are able to continually mix fresh air with stale air already present, which has the effect of minimising the total amount of ventilation needed in order to achieve an adequate level of air quality.

Acclimatising to conditions

One of the challenges facing employers is the fact that every worker needs to be treated on their own individual merits when it comes to heat tolerance and coping with the prevailing conditions.

Workers should to a certain extent, be allowed to assess their own individual tolerance levels and allowances made for people who are on prescription medications or suffer from conditions such as diabetes, which can influence how they feel while they are working.

New and temporary workers are being introduced to manual labour for the first time, will often take a little while to acclimatise to the conditions and heat levels, so you may wish to graduate the workload accordingly in the early part of their employment.

A good supply of fresh drinking water is always advisable to combat heat and avoid dehydration. Heatwaves may well become a normal occurrence in the future, so make sure that you are prepared and workers are able to remain cool whatever the temperature is outside.

Guest Author :

Aidan Simpson is passionate about employee safety. As a construction site manager, he is constantly protecting his workers in heat, cold, and wind, and on a variety of equipment and work environments.

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