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Avoiding employee heat stress in workplaces

7 min read
Insights Content heat stress

In this article, we discuss heat stress, the issues it can cause for both employees and employers, as well as the ways in which evaporative cooling technology is ideally suited to managing indoor temperatures.

A workplace doesn’t just have to be full of heavy machinery to be considered dangerous – when conditions are too warm inside, the excess heat can negatively impact worker health in a number of different ways.

It’s not just hot weather outside that can cause temperatures to rise indoors – some places of work, such as foundries and bakeries, generate a lot of heat during daily operation. If this goes unmanaged, conditions can quickly become uncomfortable and hazardous.

While heat stress has a very real impact on the workforce of today, data predicts that by 2030, the equivalent of more than 2% of total working hours worldwide will be lost every year, either because it is too hot to work or because workers have to work at a slower pace.

Infographic of workplace heat stress impact on businesses

What is heat stress?

Heat stress is caused when a body’s internal regulatory system cannot maintain the ideal temperature. While it may seem easy to pinpoint, it’s not just the temperature indoors that can affect the onset of heat stress. Factors such as humidity, the pace of work and the clothing worn all contribute to how quickly and severely heat-related illnesses can begin to develop.

In other words, although the indoor temperature may be mild, if employees are carrying out heavy work too quickly, for example, the risk of heat stress may rise.

The effects of heat stress

Above all else, heat stress can seriously harm the health and wellbeing of employees. As well as making life uncomfortable and more challenging for workforces, if left unchecked it can directly lead to illnesses and ailments:

Image showing direct effects of heat stress on people and workforces

While workplace heat stress can have an influence on the health of your employees – high temperatures can also have a much larger and often unseen effect on your business.

Workplace health and safety

If conditions are too hot it can trigger lapses in concentration. This can be problematic for those operating heavy, manual equipment, or require a great deal of focus to perform their tasks safely. Any loss of concentration can lead to accidents or mistakes, or someone injuring themselves or those around them.

To illustrate how important effective temperature management is, a recent study suggests that extreme heat plays a role in at least 20,000 additional injuries annually.

Productivity

When people work in hot environments they often find it hard to focus, feeling more tired and lethargic as the day goes on. While this is bad for health and safety, these factors also limit staff productivity.

To understand the relationship between heat and productivity, new data highlights that the rate at which staff work can dip by as much as 4% for every degree above 27°C.

Employee morale

If people are always sweaty, uncomfortable and thirsty, employee satisfaction can quickly flatline. Not only does this affect the quality of work, but it also influences staff engagement and retention.

According to figures, workers that are disengaged make 60% more errors in their work. As a result, low morale could further reduce the safety of your enterprise.

Examples of heat stress at work

Old buildings

Just as old buildings struggle to retain heat in the winter, these same properties struggle to keep high temperatures out in the summer. This is because antiquated structures are not built to modern standards and, as a result, have poor insulation. In these circumstances, hot days could be hazardous to worker health.

Open environments

Even though it takes a significant amount of energy to warm a wide-open space, such as a warehouse, it also requires a substantial effort to cool the same space. If the heat from staff and equipment gradually builds up, internal temperatures can soar and cause issues.

Smelteries and foundries

Workplaces that harness heat, such as foundries and smelteries, can leave employees particularly vulnerable to heat stress. This is because these molten materials permeate their heat rapidly, quickly warming spaces. If hot air cannot escape, temperatures can only rise, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses and accidents.

How heat stress can occur in the workplace - Diagram and infographic

How evaporative cooling tackles heat stress

To regulate the conditions inside your building, evaporative cooling systems are perfectly suited to the challenge. This technology harnesses the natural process of evaporation to quickly and efficiently cool air inside your premises.

Just as a sea breeze cools beachgoers on a scorching summer’s day, evaporative coolers regulate hot workplaces in the same way.

These coolers ensure effective temperature management, protecting employees from heat-related illnesses and helping create a happier, more productive environment for staff to thrive.

Furthermore, evaporative cooling technology can help your place of work adhere to stringent legislation. When safety representatives visit, you can impress them with well-regulated facilities, helping you maintain your reputation and avoid costly regulatory fines.

Fixed evaporative units can also regulate indoor humidity. As this is one of the contributing factors of heat stress, these systems work to keep the levels of moisture in the air at optimal levels – not too high and not too low.

How evaporative cooling helps reduce heat stress - Infographic

Spot cooling with portable evaporative coolers

However, it may not always be feasible to install a fixed evaporative unit in certain premises, or you may not need to cool every area of a building. In these instances, a portable evaporative cooler can provide an effective alternative.

Portable evaporative coolers are smaller and mobile, making them ideal to rent during the hottest times of year, and to spot cool specific areas. This means that you can create cool, comfortable rest areas for workers to use in between their shifts, preventing them from overheating.

Solutions such as Biocool’s Wind Force 4 can comfortably cool an area up to 150m2, while at the same time being easy to manoeuvre, durable and highly energy-efficient.

Other ways to prevent heat stress at work

While evaporative cooling technology helps create optimal working environments for your teams, embracing a combination of approaches to protect employees from heat can provide the best results.

Keep teams hydrated

When temperatures are hot, people sweat. To keep workers comfortable and safe, they must take regular drinks to quench their thirst, replenish the fluids lost and stave off signs of heat stress.

Provide PPE

In some cases, people will work with hot materials, such as molten metals, every day. To shield people from excess heat, PPE may be a necessity. Personal protective equipment can incorporate integrated cooling systems and breathable materials to help prevent heat exhaustion.

Acclimate workers

In order to ensure staff can work as safely and as comfortably in hot environments, it’s important to gradually acclimate people to their environment over the course of several days or weeks. By gradually building up resilience to temperatures, workers can more safely work and tolerate heat.

As well as this, consider scheduling work at certain times in the day to create as cool an area as possible. This could mean that your factory operates overnight to create a better working environment.

Further advantages of evaporative cooling

Evaporative cooling isn’t just ideally suited to regulating indoor temperatures – this technology also brings with it a slew of unique benefits, such as the ability to:

Ventilate spaces with fresh air

As well as decreasing indoor temperatures, fixed evaporative coolers can also introduce 100% fresh air into a space. This creates air movement inside, blowing away harmful pollutants, virus particles and pungent odours – boosting air quality.

Reduce power consumption

As evaporative cooling harnesses a natural process to cool spaces and move air, this method is highly energy-efficient, using just 10% of the electricity that a conventional air-conditioning unit requires.

Bring down running costs

Because this technology efficiently uses power, evaporative coolers can also help you regulate the temperature in large spaces economically.

Easily install and maintain

With just a few moving parts and no additional ducting required, fixed evaporative coolers are relatively easy to install. Plus, as the construction of these static units is so simple, maintenance is both quick and infrequent.

For an even simpler option, portable evaporative coolers require no installation whatsoever – simply plug it in and fill it with water, and you can begin to cool moderate-sized areas.

Minimise your impact on the environment

Lastly, evaporative coolers emit only water vapour as a byproduct of the cooling process. That means your company can reduce its carbon footprint while keeping efficiency high and overheads low.

Protect your employees from heat stress

Heat stress, although hard to predict, is a big hazard for workers. Not only does it have a major impact on employee health, but high indoor temperatures also have a large invisible cost to your organisation’s productivity, reputation and safety.

To address this pressing issue, evaporative coolers are perfectly suited because they can efficiently and cost-effectively cool and ventilate large spaces at the same time. By alleviating heat stress on your employees, you work to build an environment where people can thrive and prosper.

If you’re looking for a reliable, sustainable, efficient and usable solution to keep your workplace cool, Biocool is a leading name in robust climate control solutions. Throughout our 20-year history, our technology has helped dozens of industries all over the world radically transform their indoor environments.

Features of Biocool Evaporative Coolers to improve workplaces and employee health

BIO 30AV

As a product of our expertise, we developed the BIO 30AV – our largest fixed evaporative cooling unit capable of delivering up to 30,000 m³/h of airflow. Aside from raw power, what makes our unit ideal for workplaces looking to extinguish heat stress is the integrated antimicrobial ozone technology. This unique feature works to neutralise bacteria in the internal water reservoir, guaranteeing cool, clean, fresh air at all times.

Windforce 10

If your enterprise wants the flexibility to bring cooling anywhere in the building, our Windforce 10 is our most capable portable evaporative system to date. As well as being highly portable, this particular unit is still capable of cooling areas up to 400m2. In addition to its quiet operation, this model comes with a large water tank for longer operating hours.

Smart City Cooler controller

Remotely operate up to 10 units at a time and streamline daily usage with our easy-to-use Smart City Cooler controller. Monitor each system’s efficiency from a single place, gain insight as to how well your units are performing and spot faults with ease.

If you want to learn more about our selection of evaporative coolers, and how they can work to remedy heat stress in your workplace, talk to our expert team today, or get in touch using the form below.

Related products

Biocool Wind Force 10 – evaporative cooler
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Evaporative coolers

Portable and cost-effective cooling unit with integrated UV light. Ideal for open and semi-open spaces of up to 400m².

Biocool BIO 30AV – evaporative cooler
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Evaporative coolers

Green and cost-efficient air cooling unit ideal for industrial spaces. Axial fan and a max. air flow of 30,000m³/h.

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Remote climate control for BIO air coolers

Controlling up to 10 units at a time this advanced system transfers humidity and ambient temperature data to a local management site.

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