Heat Stress Prevention through Facility Maintenance
Heat-related illnesses are on the rise in Florida, Arizona, and other parts of the country.
However, Florida and Arizona saw the sharpest spike in summertime temperature among all other states over the last century.
Arizona is already considered the hottest US state with Phoenix being the hottest city.
There were over 140 days with temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 2019.
According to a recent study, the combination of humidity, heat, and wet bulb globe temperature in Florida has made it one of the most dangerous places in the United States.
Nature Climate Change recently published a study stating that cities were at a higher risk of heat stress as compared to suburban and rural areas. Energy insecurity, water scarcity, air pollution, and population density are among the chief factors.
Heat stress can have a severe impact on employee productivity and morale.
This makes it important for businesses to retain the services of an experienced facilities management company for ensuring that indoor humidity and temperature levels remain comfortable.
Heat Precautions In Hot Weather
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), heat stress occurs when the body is unable to regulate or control the core temperature.
Heat strokes can cause death or permanent disability if not treated quickly.
These are a few heat precautions employers should educate their workers on:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoid coffee, tea, and other drinks with caffeine or alcohol since that may have a dehydrating effect
- Wear protective clothing while commuting to work, such as loose-fitting and light-colored vests
- Keep the work at a steady pace, especially if it involves physically demanding tasks and avoid strenuous physical activities
- Work schedule comprising of frequent breaks for rest and hydration
- Frequently wash face and use a damp rag to keep cool
- Avoid sunburn by using sunscreens and wearing a hat if moving out of the workplace building
- Understand the first signs of heat-related illnesses
- Avoid direct sun by finding shade or blocking it out
- Eat small and frequent meals that are high in natural juice and fiber
Employers should consider calling in their employees during the cooler parts of the day.
They should also have a heat stress prevention program in place that educates employees and supervisors about excess heat stress and WBGT.
Employees working in high air temperatures or high-risk environments should be given personal protective equipment for lowering high body temperature.
Employers should also consider affixing several coolers so that everyone remembers to drink plenty of water.
How The City Measures Its Heat Index?
Heat index or apparent temperature is an indicator of what the indoor temperature feels to the human body.
Weather departments make use of air temperature and relative humidity for determining heat index.
For instance, if the relative humidity is 55% and the air temperature is 100oF, the heat index would be 124°F.
Apparent temperature is lower than the outside air temperature when relative humidity is low.
Improving Productivity in the Workplace
A worker’s reaction times can be reduced dramatically with a dehydration level of 2%.
They may have trouble focusing as well. While the human body can quickly acclimatize to working at different heat levels, the upper limit for heat stress is unique to each worker.
This is the level beyond which the employee makes become a heat casualty.
A critical element in lowering heat stress is educating employees on prevention and precaution tips.
Dangerous complications may occur at the workplace if your supervisors and workers are not trained in preventing heat stress.
Air temperature, humidity, air movement, and radiant temperature are fundamental factors in balancing body heat.
The body’s core temperature rises quickly because of radiant heat sources.
Your facilities maintenance company should be asked to ensure that these four aspects of your indoor air conditioning system are taken care of.
An experienced facilities company would know to ensure the right combination of air circulation, temperature, and humidity so that your employees remain comfortable and productive in the work environment.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heat Stress?
Heat exhaustion and stress refer to the body’s response to the loss of salt, water, and electrolytes.
This can quickly result in a medical emergency, especially in hot work environments or when working with hot objects.
These are the most common symptoms of heat stress among employees:
- Excessive sweating
- Clammy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Flushed complexion
- Weakness or fatigue
- Dry Skin
- Increased heart rate
- Heat cramps
- Heat rash
- Loss of consciousness
Causes Of Heat Stress In Buildings
Heat is something that affects all facilities, buildings, and workplaces.
Several things can cause heat stress among employees at a workplace.
It may be something as simple as reduced air ventilation or high temperatures. Sometimes, utility companies are forced to reduce voltage because of high electrical demand.
This may further affect your building’s supply of air conditioning.
Air conditioning service can get interrupted because of routine maintenance on central equipment.
It is important to ensure that routine maintenance on HVAC systems, ventilation units, and humidifiers is not carried out during regular working hours.
This may place undue stress on portable fans or other air cooling units.
Indoor heat has become a major concern, which is why OSHA has designed and published an indoor heat illness prevention standard.
It requires employers to maintain a heat index and ambient temperatures below 82 degrees.
This is particularly important for employees working in high radiant heat work areas.
The Effects Of Heat Stress On Equipment And Safety Of Occupants
Most workplace operations are highly dependent on the building’s HVAC or air conditioning systems.
Your facility may experience breakdowns in the electrical service and distribution system if the right temperatures are not maintained by the HVAC system.
The most at-risk equipment without air conditioning is telecommunication units and computers.
Unfortunately, these two make up the backbone of any business as well.
You may have to shut down operations or keep them suspended until your computers can start working again.
However, before the computers melt, your employees may suffer from a heat stroke.
Occupied spaces, especially interior spaces that have fixed windows are at a higher risk of quickly becoming uncomfortable.
Your building may suffer from significant disruptions due to the loss of air conditioning.
This involves equipment downtime, suspended operations, and damage to sensitive electronic equipment among other things.
Thermal Comfort or Indoor Air Quality
Thermal comfort refers to that condition of mind where you think your body is comfortable with the thermal environment.
This is the right temperature when a person is not feeling cold or hot.
In comparison, indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the amount of particulate matter in the indoor air.
Indoor air quality has gained tremendous importance in recent years since ambient pollution has increased in several areas.
Oversee A Schedule of Regular Cleaning
Regular cleaning and maintenance of your facility and central conditioning equipment should be a high priority.
This will ensure fewer breakdowns and equipment downtime.
It will also help ensure that your business doesn’t take a hit.
Heat Stress: Smart Solutions for Facilities Maintenance
Facilities maintenance have several tools at their disposal to manage and prevent heat stress in a building.
They can use state-of-the-art software tools to manage heating and cooling in a property remotely.
They can also use smart or programmable thermostats to set temperatures down during the day and increase them at night.
Some heating and cooling options can help facility managers carry out their roles in a better way.
Property owners can not only benefit from lowering energy bills but also ensuring that everyone in their building is comfortable and safe.
Modern smart sensor solutions can be used for reducing costs and enhancing capabilities.
Employer productivity can be enhanced in a big way by using smart sensors in buildings.
Facilities Maintenance: Proper Ventilation
Ambient room temperature doesn’t just depend on the air temperature.
It also depends on humidity levels within the building.
Ventilation systems go a long way in ensuring air is circulated and that humidity is kept low.
This is of particular importance in areas with high humidity levels, such as Florida.
Proper building ventilation is key to client and employee comfort and health.
Ventilation is ranked by the Environmental Protection Agency as the most important element of ensuring comfort and good air quality.
Ventilation refers to removing and supplying outside air from a building.
Stale air doesn’t just cause the temperature to rise indoors.
It also harbors pollutants, which may cause illnesses varying from severe Legionnaire’s disease to mild respiratory problems.
Ventilation is especially important in COVID-19 times when you don’t want the same air to keep recirculating throughout the building.
Without a commercial facilities maintenance company taking care of ventilation, your employees may experience respiratory illness, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and poor concentration.
These complaints will clearly result in more sick days and reduced efficiency.
This usually happens because of improperly operated or maintained HVAC systems.
Properly maintained and installed ventilation systems will reduce indoor pollutant levels and prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria.
It will also refresh the air.
Maintain a Comfortable Indoor Temperature
Facilities maintenance managers have several options at their hands now to ensure comfortable indoor temperature.
They can always manage humidity levels and keep a comfortable thermostat setting.
They can also distribute portable fans throughout the building or open any operable windows.
Heat stress doesn’t take long to occur.
In case the HVAC system is not in operation for some reason, building managers need to increase the rate of ventilation in the building.
They should also consider portable cooling systems that are available in varying configurations and capacities.
While portable systems cannot replace a building’s central cooling unit, they go a long way in ensuring spot cooling.
Facility managers can help ensure comfortable indoor temperatures with these fans.
Maintain Adequate Air Flow In Buildings
Fresh outdoor air is provided by mechanical ventilation systems in a building.
Vents are also responsible for removing stale and polluted air from the interior of the building.
Ventilation systems that are not properly maintained or calibrated can adversely affect the airflow and air quality index in a building.
This can lead to several negative health effects, including higher temperatures in the building.
A certain amount of fresh outdoor air needs to be let into the building while removing stale air at the same time.
There are two types of ventilation systems – mechanical and advanced.
Mechanical systems help in controlling the amount of PM in the air.
It also gets rid of hot and humid air that could be directly contributing to moisture problems and heat issues in the building.
Many facilities are equipped with advanced ventilation systems these days that allow indoor air to be allowed into the building.
These are controlled by dampeners and sensors.
The dampeners open to let in fresh air whenever sensors determine contaminants in the air.
Maintain an Indoor Humidity Level That Is Comfortable and Safe for Occupants
Businesses can ensure a healthy, comfortable and productive office environment for their employees by maintaining 40% relative humidity levels.
Experienced facility maintenance companies know the importance of offices employing humidification methods.
Facility managers can eliminate dry air problems and humidity issues by incorporating a humidifier within the facility’s air conditioning system.
The building may feel uncomfortable if these levels are not maintained.
The occupants can become susceptible to chemical reactions and respiratory disorders. Improper humidity levels may also cause damage to the building – both inside and outside.
One of the primary functions of any air conditioning system is to remove unwanted moisture from the property.
Indoor Temperature Code Compliance
Employees working in a traditional office environment areas susceptible to the risk of heat exposure as those working in an external environment.
OSHA’s technical manual recommends all employers maintain a temperature of 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit in the workplace.
It is also recommended to keep the humidity within the 20 to 60 percent range.
According to the OSHA interpretation letter, workplace humidity and temperature conditions are a matter of occupant comfort.
This is why OSHA does not cite the General Duty Clause for personal discomfort since the issue cannot be explained as a hazard causing serious physical harm or death.
However, OSHA does recommend maintaining ambient temperatures to increase employee productivity.
Retain the services of an Experienced Facility Solutions Company
There are a lot of factors contributing to indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity levels.
It can be difficult for in-house building managers to be aware of the various components.
The team at Servi-Tek has experience in dealing with buildings of various sizes.
We can make sure that your building occupants do not suffer from heat stress that negatively impacts your bottom line.
Schedule a consultation with us today about how you can make your facility more comfortable during the hot summer months while keeping costs down.
Give us a call at (866) 454-6185 or use our online form for scheduling a call.