One of my first jobs was in a small and enclosed industrial warehouse without any air conditioning whatsoever because it was cost effective. In the summer, the temperature inside would be higher than the already sweltering heat outside. Things probably would have stayed this way had the management not realized an important side effect. It turns out the majority of mistakes in the warehouse were occurring in the afternoon, when temperatures inside were reaching upwards of 100 degrees. Air conditioning was quickly installed and the number of mistakes dropped significantly.
This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. In a performance study conducted by NASA, it was found that at 80 degrees, telegraph operators would make five errors in an hour, at 90 degrees they would make nine mistakes per hour, and at 95 degrees the mistakes rose to 60 per hour. When workers aren’t accustomed to working in high heat, they are extremely susceptible to heat-related illness. Even those who are used to high temperatures can easily be in danger of heat exhaustion. Employers must take care to ensure that workers not only have a productive work environment, but also that they are safe one.
An excellent resource is a new app released by OSHA, which shows the heat index in your area. The OSHA Heat Safety Tool provides you the safety information you need right on your mobile device. Accessible any time, outdoor workers can check the risk level on a job site and, with a quick click, receive a list of protective measures. These include everything from scheduling rest breaks to learning the proper steps in case of an emergency.
Tools like this go a long way towards achieving workplace safety, but it is essential that leaders have a heat safety plan in place, as well. They should always check the NOAA National Weather Service heat index so that they know what environment they will be facing. It is also important to check each worker’s heart rate during scheduled breaks to determine elevated risk of heat stroke and gauge the length between breaks accordingly.
Having a plan in place will also help you meet the OSHA requirements for safety from heat-related illness. The four requirements are heat stress training, regularly scheduled breaks, a shaded area for breaks and relief from the heat, and having plenty of water or sports drinks available. If these four conditions are met, companies are taking crucial steps toward helping their personnel beat the heat.
While these measures help with safety, they often don’t solve your productivity problem. It’s been found that worker productivity decreases at a rate of 2 percent for every 1.8 degrees increase in temperature past 77 degrees. To help with this issue, there’s Breezer Mobile Cooling’s Power Breezer. With the ability to cool up to 3000 square feet by 27 degrees, the Power Breezer quickly and efficiently eliminates this problem in even the most challenging of climates, whether the warehouse is open or even outside. By keeping your workers cool and your equipment dry, the Power Breezer leads the industry in maintaining safety and productivity.