October 14 2015 |Written By bluefish

Properly Ventilating Your Warehouse

Guest blogger: Rankin

{image_1}Warehouses can be difficult to keep well ventilated, but proper ventilation is critical for your workers and your equipment and materials. You need to reduce the build up of heat and humidity in the summer. Ventilation needs also include removing hazardous fumes. You do not have to maintain the entire building at exact temperature and moisture levels, but understanding the importance of ventilation will help you know where you need to make changes.

Heat

Individuals who work outdoors in the summer are not the only ones affected by heat levels. Workers inside warehouses can be just as prone to heat related conditions. When the potential for a lack of airflow is added to the heat, your workers can be impacted more than you realize.

Keeping your workers comfortable does more than just provide a pleasant environment. In hot working conditions, the body works harder in an attempt to cool down. When this is combined with a loss of fluids due to sweating, worker reaction times can be reduced. You may be faced with a loss of productivity and an increase in mistakes or accidents.

Your employees are just one of your concerns. Even with few workers, your warehouse is not immune to excessive heat. In fact, the more automated electronic controls in use, the more prone your system can be to heat failures. Computerized equipment must be kept cool for reliable operation, and it’s also important to consider the effect of heat on the materials that move in and out of your facility.

While you may not be operating a refrigerated service, high temperatures might damage the products you handle. Problems can increase if the materials are moved from an overly hot storage area to a cooler area for transport. Expansion and contraction from temperature changes or moisture forming inside packages is not beneficial to your clients.

Remember that even if your warehouse has a main cooling unit, some areas may not benefit due to a lack of air circulation. Temporary and portable air-conditioning units provide the cooling solution needed without requiring a major overhaul of your facility.

Humidity

Humidity is simply the amount of moisture in the air, but it can significantly impact the comfort of your employees and the safety of your products. Humidity can develop anywhere that hot and cold air meet. Warehouses in desert areas are just as prone to the problem. In the summer, as hot outside air contacts cooler air inside the building, humidity will form.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not set standards for humidity levels, but does address the need for indoor air quality. The University of Minnesota provides guidelines for comfortable humidity levels in residential applications. These general guidelines can be used for warehouse environments.

During summer months, the humidity level should not exceed 55 percent. If moisture forms on the inside of windows or metal shelving, the humidity level is too high. The relatively cooler temperature of metal to the surrounding air temperature makes the material a good indicator of moisture in the air. Warehouses normally include a large amount of metal shelving, making excess moisture a corrosion problem — in addition to making the environment uncomfortable for workers.

Humidity also leads to mold and mildew growth. This growth is dangerous for workers and damaging to stored materials. Finding the balance between air that is too dry or too moist does not require extreme measures. Industrial dehumidifiers can be used where needed in your facility and set to keep the humidity level at a safe and comfortable level.

Fumes

Guidelines are in place to limit the amount of fumes emitted from forklifts and other gas powered vehicles in warehouse environments. However, the overall air quality should also be considered. Portable fans are great for keeping air circulating, but these may not always provide enough ventilation. Portable air scrubbers can be used to clean the air in sections of your facility that pose a greater risk.

According to OSHA, environmental conditions that expose workers to high temperatures and humidity place the workers at a risk of heat stress. A lack of air movement is also a contributing factor. You can reduce the potential for problems by using portable air conditioners and dehumidifiers in critical areas of your warehouse.


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