Whew! It’s Hot in Here! – Keeping Your Cool in the Hot Warehouse


Warmer weather is finally upon us, and that means sunshine, picnics, Maryland heat outdoors and hopefully, cooling systems inside. When the thermometer rises, you’ll want to keep it steady inside – especially when it involves a warehouse. You can keep your warehouse at a comfortable temperature with a little forethought and the cooperation of your warehouse employees. From the loading dock to the front door and from the HVAC system to the storage units, give your facility the once-over to keep it cool and comfortable.

  • Temperature can be controlled in many ways – energy efficiency being the top option. Keeping both loading dock doors and front man-doors closed when not in use is a good practice to start right away. If you can open windows, do so only in areas where there might be a cross breeze. Otherwise you’re just letting in the hot air and getting no cooling benefit. Make sure your doors and windows are tightly insulated so cool air is not drifting out of the building through tiny cracks.
  • A good HVAC system for your warehouse is a must. It’s very difficult to keep a warehouse at a steady temperature, but an HVAC system that can handle the square footage is the first step to a cool summer. Check your commercial HVAC system’s capacity. If it doesn’t cut it, either add to it or replace it. You will likely save money in the long run, even if it seems like a huge investment now.
  • Keep your warehouse employees safe and comfortable. When the weather starts to get hot, change your dress policy if possible, so that employees can feel comfortable coming to work in light-weight clothing that is job-appropriate. Of course, your policy should also take safety and modesty into account. No flip-flops on the warehouse floor, no ripped or torn clothing, no flowing sleeves or pants that might get caught in a machine, and conservative shirts and shorts (if allowed).

 

  • Make sure employees and visitors alike have easy access to water. Get employees in the habit of drinking frequently to stay hydrated. Nobody wants a forklift operator to faint from heat exhaustion or dehydration. Make sure people keep cool by giving frequent breaks.
  • Place fans throughout the warehouse. Fans can be floor-level or mid-level, but out of the way of high traffic areas. Place fans in open areas as to move the fresher air, and in smaller alcoves where the air tends to be more stagnant. Be sure any cords are out of walk way areas and that the fan blades are not at head level – hair or clothing can easily get caught in a fan and can cause serious injury. If you have office or conference space in your warehouse, consider installing ceiling fans that can cool a particular room in summer and push heat down in the winter.
  • Don’t use plastic racking or plastic bins for inventory storage. Extreme heat and inconsistent temperatures can cause plastic racking to bow and possibly melt. Steel or metal racking is stronger and more efficient for warehousing in the hotter months. If kept inside, the steel racking will remain cool. If using steel racking outdoors, avoid putting it in the sunlight. It will get hot quickly and become a burn hazard for anyone handling it.
  • Try steel wire decking for storage. Wire decking offers more air circulation around boxes or containers. The openness limits humidity and moisture build-up between or under containers. Many grocery store warehouses use wire to protect their boxes. Reinforcing wire decking with a cross support or extra bar beneath the wire can give it more stability.
  • Check for moisture build-up and dripping of any HVAC units or vents. If HVAC units are located over product storage areas, the sweating of the units can cause damage to packaging and can make floors wet and slippery. If this happens, be sure to put cones or warning signs around the wet area so that workers avoid it.
  • Be sure that trucks and company vehicles are not left in the scorching sun all day, heating the insides up to dangerous heat levels. Keep the windows open a small bit or use a sunshield on the windshield. Even better, keep them in a garage, out of the sun.
  • Share summer safety tips with your warehouse team early in the season. Do something special like a popsicle or ice cream social to emphasize the importance of keeping cool at work. When temperatures rise, keep temperaments low with calm, cooling activities.
  • Have a back-up cooling system or a plan in case you encounter a brown-out or black-out due to summer storms or high energy use on your electric grid.
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