Cooling off: Prevention is the best defense against heat-related hazards
06/05/2012

As the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) website warns: “Heat illness can be deadly. Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.”

Although OSHA does not have a specific standard for hot work conditions, according to its website, “under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards.”

It pays to take preventative measures to ensure your customers and employees are safe and often the best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler, which can be achieved by using cooling fans on the job.

This is an opportunity for rental stores to earn additional revenue during the hot summer months when the temperatures make it potentially dangerous for outdoor and indoor work. Heavy-duty, ventilation equipment — such as floor and pedestal fans, evaporative cooling fans and misting fans — can be rented for comfort and safety to contractors and employers with outdoor workers. These temporary cooling solutions also usually provide a good return on investment for those in the rental industry.

Many indoor work environments also are affected by the heat during the summer. Often it is too expensive and impractical for large warehouses and manufacturing facilities to be air conditioned. As a result, OSHA recommends the use of cooling fans or increased ventilation in these types of situations. Again, this is equipment that can be rented to factories and warehouses during the peak summer months when heat can be a problem.

Floor and pedestal fans, for example, can be rented for cooling individual work stations and evaporative cooling fans can be used to cool larger areas, such as shipping docks or assembly lines.

Knowing how to recommend evaporative coolers is the key to having a successful and repeated rental experience. Unlike standard fans, evaporative cooling fans mix evaporated water with air movement to lower the ambient temperature. This is different than misting fans, which spray water into the air and leave people standing directly in front of them feeling wet.

Evaporative cooling fans are most efficient in dry environments, lowering the ambient temperature by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas in higher humidity they may only lower the ambient temperature by up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

In most instances, however, even a 5-degree drop in temperature, combined with the air movement created by evaporative coolers, can
make a noticeable difference. It is important to note that relative humidity
is at its highest in early morning and at dusk. During the afternoon, relative humidity is much lower, increasing the cooling effect of evaporative cooling fans.

Since evaporative cooling fans add moisture to the air, there must be a source of fresh make-up air when cooling an indoor environment. Other considerations to take into account are water and electrical supply. Most evaporative cooling fans use a standard 110V outlet and can be filled with water or continually supplied with water by a hose.

On manually filled evaporative cooling fans, automatic shut-off valves are recommended to prevent the water pump from burning out when the water reservoir is empty. Regular maintenance of evaporative cooling fans also is as simple as drying the cooling media or pads to ensure they do not accumulate mold and mildew. RM

Tracy Kelly is a market specialist for Schaefer Ventilation Equipment, Sauk Rapids, Minn. He can be reached at 800-779-3267, ext. 122, or tracyk@schaeferfan.com.


OSHA creates heat safety app

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last year created the OSHA Heat Safety Tool, a free application for mobile devices that can be used by workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses.

The app, available in English and Spanish, allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they may take such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks and adjusting work operations.

Users also can review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, and learn about first aid steps to take in an emergency. Information for supervisors also is available through the app on how to gradually build up the workload for new workers as well as how to train employees on heat illness signs and symptoms. In addition, users can contact OSHA directly through the app.

The app is designed for devices using an Android platform and with iPhones. An updated version for Blackberry users is expected to be available soon.


More from OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have created an info sheet about protecting workers from heat illness available online at cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-174/pdfs/2011-174.pdf.