Workers in many industries are exposed to heat on a regular basis all year round, and the heat stroke is a prevalent, if not exceptionally risky threat. That's just to be expected when we're working alongside machines that dispel heat whenever they're turned on. Once summer comes along, higher temperatures and increasing humidity can exacerbate the situation in any work environment, and companies need to be well aware of the risks posed to their workers.
Warehouses and distribution centers are particularly susceptible to overheating. Thanks to their spaciousness, it's easy to trap heat and difficult to move it out. Proper air circulation is necessary to keep a comfortable work environment. In addition to that, here are a number of ways you can protect your workers from overworking themselves and putting themselves at risk of developing heat stroke.
Automate strenuous work – The two-fold benefit of automation is that as you optimize your operations with equipment, you also protect workers from additional physical stress. In regard to heat stroke prevention, you could reduce labor by installing conveyor systems or carton flow rack that does the work for them. Even smaller-scale solutions like electric pallet jacks or extendable gravity conveyor beds can be rolled out to lessen the stress placed on workers, while also improving productivity.
Install proper ventilation, exhaust, and insulation – Proper airflow is vital to disperse stagnant hot air, and it can be achieved by making sure that your building is equipped to move air, and that heat from equipment is fed through an exhaust system to escape the building. The goal is to keep circulating fresh, cool air into the workplace while keeping people away from heat as much as possible. Both insulating hot equipment and blocking off hot areas will ensure that people avoid additional risk in their regular work duties.
Use fans – High-velocity, low speed (HVLS) ceiling fans are a more permanent way to improve air circulation and cool off large areas of your workplace where you know heat will be an issue. For extra effect, use portable fans wherever they're needed.
Mark hot areas – If workers need to be in close proximity to heat-generating equipment, be sure to warn them in training and remind them with clearly posted signage about the dangers of heat stroke.
Train to know the symptoms – All workers should be trained to recognize the early signs of heat illness so that they can take preventative measures when they feel the symptoms or notice them in someone else. Supervisors especially must be trained to keep a close eye on workers in hot working conditions.
Adjust expectations – Unrealistic expectations can be downright dangerous in hot working conditions, and if you aren't willing to lighten up on your workers, you could be held liable for their injuries or death from heat stroke. More frequent breaks, longer rest periods, adjusted shift times, and realistic production goals keep workers healthy and more productive in the end.
Provide water and cool break areas – Hydration is one of the best ways to fend of heat illnesses. Having a fresh supply and easy access to fresh drinking water will help energize and restore your workers' health. Also, have an air-conditioned break room where they can escape the ambient heat of their work area.
Encourage physical fitness and consider workers' health –Taking care of your body is the best way to fend off any illness, including heat stroke. Give workers incentive to stay fit and encourage them to keep healthy diets. Beyond that, do your best to accommodate workers with preexisting conditions that could put them at a higher risk of developing heat stroke.
Speedrack Midwest is a provider of material handling solutions. We can help reduce undue stress on your workers while improving efficiency in your warehouse or distribution center. Come to us if you're seeking automated solutions to boost productivity or simply want to give your workers tools that make their jobs safer and easier. You can reach our Sparta, Michigan office by calling 616-887-8886.