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Tips to Fight Summer Heat in the Warehouse

Error rates increase and safety is at risk with higher temperatures

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There are many issues of productivity and safety that are stressed as the heat rises. As temperatures start to rise, it gets particularly hot in industrial facilities, warehouses, shops, and distribution centers where air conditioning isn’t always present, extremely costly, or very effective. Experts say that employee productivity increases when ambient temperatures are comfortable and plummets when they aren’t. Error rates climb and safety is compromised as workers fight through hot, sweaty conditions. Here are some ways you can go about combating the rigors of summer.

Cool down the facility with HVLS fans

HVLS fan in a warehouse

If you can’t air-condition, or can’t adequately do so, large warehouse ceiling fans help cool large amounts of square footage for relatively low costs.

Floor fans are fine for specific areas, but they suffer from their high volume. 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; I’ve been around them (we have one in our Dallas warehouse) and it’s kind of like standing in a breeze rather than a strong wind. These fans continuously mix incoming fresh air with stale air, minimizing 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.
Effective for shipping docks, and other areas with opening doors and bays. They cost about a nickel an hour to operate, and warehouse guys who have them, love them.

Be sure your conveyor is ready for the heat

It’s a given that friction leads to heat, and conveyor systems have many friction points. Couple that with hot summer weather, and the possibility of higher than normal temperatures in rotating or moving conveyor parts becomes a concern. Heat also expands, which is another challenge that it presents to machinery in general, and conveyors in specific. See our guide to heat and conveyor for more information. In general, this boils down to (1) checking the bearing seals more frequently, (2) Checking reducer oil periodically (you should always do this, but heated conditions make it even more necessary); (3) Keep a close watch on the motor and watch for potential overheating. In the summer heat, the amp draw will rise. Use an amp meter to check this; (4) 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.

drink plenty of fluids

Drink, drink, drink: be sure employees and managers avoid heat stress, drink plenty of water, and recognize the symptoms

It’s hot out there at the best of times. When it’s 103 degrees on a humid Texas or Georgia afternoon, a shop, factory or warehouse floor worker can really feel the difference. The risks of heat exhaustion and heat stroke escalate greatly. Employees are instructed on how to avoid heat stress in hot, humid 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 a risk for heat-related issues, but the frequency of accidents also appears to be higher in hot surroundings than in more moderate environmental conditions since working in a hot environment lowers mental alertness and physical performance. Simple heat discomfort can cause workers to overlook safety procedures. This also causes mistakes and lowers productivity.

The biggest factor is that people working in the heat should drink water – plenty of it – and take the time to cool off whenever possible. Workers should wear light, loose-fitting clothes. Most importantly, everyone involved should be trained to recognize heat stress symptoms.

strip doors control climate, allow access to dock doorsUse strip doors & partitions to segment plant areas, control points of climate control “bleed”

You can maintain an open dock door without air conditioning your entire ZIP code. 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. Besides the heating issues, they’re also good for helping to prevent dust or other airborne debris contained. They allow foot or motorized traffic to pass and can be configured for just about any size opening from a cooler door to a dock door.

A more detailed article on warehousing, material handling, and summertime heat issues can be found here.

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Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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