There’s a lot more heat in your workplace than you might think. More is on the way. Know the signs and best practices to avoid the worst.
- Workplaces already struggle with high interior heat profiles caused by staff and equipment
- A heat-illness prevention plan should be implemented
- HVACs must be maintained, but even outdated buildings can be retrofitted
- Chiller systems must be looked after so HVACs can function
Extreme heat is becoming a serious issue nationwide, making a well-maintained HVAC system an absolute must. A look at the NOAA’s graphic on how American temperatures have risen over the last century would make anybody hot under the collar, and it’s not going to stop there. You can type a city name into this heat predictor to see what’s in store for your region.
We Floridians look set to suffer temperature hikes of over 3 degrees in the next 30 years, even in winter! It’s essential for workplaces to start monitoring their interior temperatures to protect employees from the increasing possibility of heat-related illness. This is even more important if the site doesn’t have good natural airflow.
Read on to discover the dangers of an unregulated thermal profile, how a quality HVAC system can keep everybody cool, and how the UES team can keep your workforce safer and healthier.
How heat takes hold at work
Look around any office, warehouse, or distribution center and you’ll see two of the major causes of workplace heat: people and equipment, particularly electrical equipment like laptops, desktops, and lights.
Then we have windows: The more you’ve got, the greater the sunlight and heat being magnified. The more vehicles you have scooting around the warehouse, the greater the heat emissions from their engines and exhausts. The higher up you are in a building, the more rising heat you get from lower floors.
What constitutes “too hot” at work can differ between people, but there are some key signs to look out for that go beyond opinion. Heat exhaustion can manifest in heavy sweating, weak and quick pulse, nausea, dizziness, headaches, or cold and clammy skin. People can even pass out. Heatstroke has similar symptoms except the skin gets hot, the pulse is fast and strong rather than weak, and confusion can be felt.
Some workplace best practices to beat the heat
Calling 911 first in every instance is the best way to stay safe. Drinking to cool down after heat-illness hits can actually make things worse. Neither can you simply step outside to cool down if you’re in a sunny state like Florida.
Every business should take a proactive approach to on-the-job heat by providing access to water so staff can stay regularly hydrated (but no more than 12 quarts in a 24-hour period). Giving staff enough time for food and snacks also helps tackle heat illness because the food helps replace electrolytes and salt. Drafting and distributing a heat-illness prevention plan is next. This should educate employees on the signs of heat-related illness in themselves and others.
The plan should allow for the installation of proper ventilation, use of fans, and who to report to if they feel uncomfortable. It’s also important for heat-illness supervisors to note factors that can make some staff more susceptible to heat illness, like:
- Age (older staff are more vulnerable)
- Bodyweight (heavier people have a higher chance of heat exhaustion)
- If their role is excessively sedentary or active
- Pre-existing health conditions
- Medication cycles
- Caffeine consumption
The CDC offers further guidance for recognizing and treating heat-related illness, with moving to a cool place being one solution. A struggling commercial HVAC can make that simple step impossible. An HVAC in healthy condition can help your employees stay healthy themselves.
How to keep your HVAC in good working condition
Many businesses are still trying to stay cool using old (and sometimes antiquated) HVAC systems. Upgrading an existing HVAC can seem like too much time, trouble, and expense for many companies when it’s actually one of the most physically beneficial and cost-effective investments they can make.
An HVAC upgrade can involve installing a VFD, or Variable Frequency Drive, into your existing system. VFD’s fit well with almost any commercial HVAC system and deliver significant cooling and money-saving benefits. VFDs lower your energy consumption, preserve your existing motor, and extend the overall lifespan of the HVAC system.
That’s regular money in your pocket over time, and VFDs do it all without compromising on getting cool air to your staff wherever and whenever they need it. Your HVAC system should also be checked at least once every year to ensure optimal function. This not only protects people from heat-related illness but saves a business money on repairs before problems go too far.
Last but not least is another must for keeping workplaces cool: Paying close attention to the function of your chiller system. Just read our blog on the subject to learn how to look after this essential HVAC component.
How retrofitting can bring buildings into the 21st century
There’s only one thing worse than an outdated HVAC, and that’s not having one at all. This is the reality for many historic buildings which is where retrofitting is necessary.
Yes, a great retrofitting job will take time and won’t be cheap. It’s also true that it’s really not so painful when you hire the right team. You’ll be protecting your workforce and anybody else who spends any time on the premises, and that’s worth the investment.
Businesses thinking of altering their existing HVAC or installing a new one must remember how closely tied their electrical system is to the job. As experts in the field, we understand this transition fully and are here to offer any advice or assistance you may need.
Stay cool at work by contacting UES
The Universal Electrical team can provide tailored cooling solutions for many industries throughout the state of Florida. We’re here to help, whether your HVAC needs a quick tune-up, complete rehaul, or retrofit. Our team is the go-to for advice on chillers, cooling towers, pumps, fans, variable frequency drives, and more, so just visit our contact page to speak with the pros!