During the hot summer months, a loading dock can quickly become an unpleasant place to work. That is unless you’ve taken the proper steps to prepare your docks to help employees combat excessive summertime heat and other environmental factors.
Non-air conditioned interiors in warehouses, distribution centers and industrial facilities with little or no air movement, sun exposure on the dock itself, and trailers that can reach in excess of 100 degrees inside, can all combine to cause added stress on employees and dramatic drops in productivity.
Studies show that when the ambient temperature of the surrounding air is 95 degrees or higher, the benefits of radiation, convection and conduction stop working to lower body temperature. Evaporation is the body’s only remaining defense to cool itself off. Heat stress is a very serious issue because occupational exposure to heat can also result in injuries, disease, and even death.
Summer 2016 temperature outlook
According to a June-August 2016 long-range outlook released in March by The Weather Company’s Professional Division, this summer is shaping up to be a warm one over much of the U.S. as a transition from El Niño to La Niña conditions are expected.
Well-above average temperatures are expected this summer for the northern tier of states, from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Plains, Great Lakes, and Northeast. Warmer than average temperatures will also extend from southern California into the central and southern Plains and Southeast.
Awareness about the effects of heat stress is vital
To help increase awareness about such workplace dangers during the past few decades, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has evaluated a variety of scientific data on heat stress and hot working environments. NIOSH first published its detailed findings in 1986 in its well-known report, Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments, most recently updated in February 2016.
In the report, NIOSH states that although workers can acclimatize themselves to different levels of heat, each worker has an upper limit for heat stress beyond which that worker can become a heat casualty. Further, it has been shown that a worker’s ability to focus attention and the worker’s reaction times can be dramatically reduced by even a 2 percent dehydration level due to heat stress.
Smart heat-reducing solutions are available now
With such heat-related issues once again on the horizon as the summer months draw closer, using the old adage “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t worth risking your employees’ health and safety due to lack of proper prevention.
Fortunately, the Kelley brand includes smart and effective solutions that will help alleviate heat stress on your employees at the loading dock, or even prevent it altogether. They include:
- HVLS industrial fans: high volume low speed (HVLS) industrial fans are the go-to solution for circulating large columns of air that then spread outward to constantly keep employees cool and comfortable during their shifts, day or night. Strategically positioned at just the right locations in your facility, HVLS industrial fans can reduce the ambient air temperature anywhere from 4 to 7 degrees and that can have a big impact on overall productivity.
When using HVLS industrial fans, additional air movement across the skin means better evaporation on humid days when there’s little or no help from Mother Nature. In addition, increased air movement across floors that have become wet or moist due to condensation also results in dryer conditions and a higher level of safety for employees.
- Turbo-ES™ Energy Saving Fan: hot air that’s been trapped in a trailer for hours, days or even weeks without a way to escape can be unbearable for any loading dock worker. Available from aftermarket solution provider APS Resource, the compact Turbo-ES Energy Saving Fan creates a focused column of air that forces heated and stagnant air out of a secured trailer once opened and works hard—up to 1,275 CFM—to replace uncomfortable air with much healthier fresh air.
- Insulated sectional dock doors: for interior environments that need to stay cooler than the outside temperatures at or near the loading dock, Entrematic recently introduced a new product line-up of three Kelley insulated sectional overhead dock doors that keep the cool air in and the hot air out:
- Heavy-Duty 2″ Insulated Sectional Overhead Door: 9.05 R-Value with two steel skins (24-gauge exterior and 27-gauge interior) with CFC-free polystyrene insulation.
- Medium-Duty 1-3/8″ Insulated Sectional Overhead Door: 6.48 R-Value with two steel skins (27-gauge inner and outer) surrounding 1-3/8-inch CFC-free polystyrene insulation.
- Polyurethane Insulated Sectional Overhead Doors (three models): up to 19.40 R-Value and constructed using 2-inch or 1-3/8-inch foamed-in-place polyurethane insulation with the extra-heavy-duty model featuring a 20-gauge steel front skin.
- Impactable industrial sectional dock doors (TKO® Series): designed to take abuse on the loading dock, reduce maintenance costs and increase energy savings, TKO impactable industrial sectional doors are ideal for high-traffic loading docks, high wind load environments, and cold storage facilities. Because they are designed to take a hit and keep a consistent perimeter seal, you can be confident the door can be closed in warm summer months to keep the conditioned air in where employees need it most.
- ENERGY GUARD®: provides a superior perimeter seal along the sides and rear of loading dock levelers to keep mass flows of hot air from infiltrating the loading dock through gaps between the dock leveler and concrete pit walls; such gaps are typically missed by traditional weather seal or under-leveler seals attached to the front of the dock leveler. Energy Guard can be factory installed on new equipment orders or installed in the field to enhance your existing equipment.
This summer, don’t take unnecessary risks with your loading dock employees’ health and safety. Prevention is key.
Combining common sense approaches to avoiding heat stress, such as teaching employees the important warning signs and to self-monitor, making sure they have access to and drink plenty of water BEFORE they’re thirsty, and encouraging employees to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes—along with making sure you have the right equipment at the loading dock—will help your employees combat the rigors of summer heat this year and in years to come.