When a warehouse is not properly ventilated it becomes stuffy. Without good air circulation, the humidity levels and temperature will rise. Excess heat or cold is detrimental to workers and equipment. The area can become unhealthy, and dangerous for workers, if toxic fumes build up. Understanding the problems created by poor ventilation and temperature fluctuations, and the possible solutions, will help you maintain a better warehouse environment.
Excessive heat hurts both your workers and equipment. When workers are exposed to high heat levels, their performance will suffer. Heat leads to drowsiness and reduces the ability to focus. Workers not only become less efficient, they can be more prone to accidents. Heat stress occurs if the exposure to high heat levels is prolonged.
Your equipment and machinery may also suffer from operating in higher temperatures. Engines and electrical motors need cooling. Overheating will cause increased wear on parts and shorten the lifespan of the equipment. Keeping equipment running at normal operating temperatures will improve the efficiency.
Your employees also do not function as well in overly cold environments. This is more pronounced if you have older workers with arthritic conditions. If you notice that your personnel are all wearing gloves and scarves, your warehouse is too cold.
The cold has detrimental effects on your materials and machinery. Many materials will become brittle in low temperatures. Even if the drop only occurs overnight while your warehouse is closed, you may be risking a loss in inventory. Equipment takes longer to warm up to the appropriate operating temperature, reducing its efficiency.
High humidity levels cause warping in many materials. Wood is especially prone to absorbing moisture and expanding. Humidity can also create rust. Increased humidity contributes to the growth of mold and bacteria. Left unchecked, your warehouse can become an unhealthy facility. In extreme case of humidity, you can experience equipment failures. Moisture can work its way into hydraulic fluid and oils causing machine damage.
If humidity levels are too low, static electricity will build. While this is not harmful to your employees, it can become a critical problem in warehouses that store or process static-sensitive materials. Plus, static becomes harmful if any explosive materials are used or stored in the area.
Gas-powered vehicles create carbon monoxide. A buildup of this gas can be deadly. Signs of exposure to carbon monoxide include headaches, dizziness, nausea and confusion. Even when vehicles are being operated in large, open areas, carbon monoxide gasses can build to dangerous levels. Monitoring equipment should be installed to keep workers safe.
You should also understand that battery-powered vehicles do have hazards. Recharging batteries can produce off-gassing. Recharging areas must have adequate ventilation.
Exhaust hoods are required on any equipment that produces toxic fumes. Ensure that hood maintenance is performed on a regular basis and that the airflow meets the minimum requirements for safety.
While permanent solutions are one option, you may find that your warehouse does not need ventilation 365 days a year. In this case, a temporary solution may be the best choice. Portable heating and cooling systems are available.
This type of unit can be placed directly where heating or cooling is needed. This is a cost-effective approach to keeping your warehouse ventilated and your employees comfortable. Portable systems are also beneficial for reducing humidity levels.
Even if your warehouse uses a central HVAC system, make sure that it provides a reasonable amount of filtration and fresh air. These systems re-circulate the air in the building. Without fresh air or a filtering system, air quality can decrease as the contaminants are never removed.
Maintaining a reasonable and consistent temperature, with an adequate supply of fresh air, is beneficial to your workers and the productivity of your warehouse.
Dale Allen is the National Service Manager of Rankin Heating & Cooling, a leading temporary heating and cooling company in the United States.