A plant’s air quality is one of the leading contributors to workforce comfort because, at the end of the day, nothing is quite so pervasive as the air employees breathe.
When you think about the productivity of your workforce, a number of questions come into play. Are you meeting your daily goals? Have you correctly set benchmarks? Have the proper safety procedures been established and well-communicated with your team?
There is one question, however, that is often overlooked: Have you created a comfortable environment for your workforce? Comfort might get overlooked, but it is a critical factor in communicating to your workforce that you value their health and their workplace experiences, while providing an environment that is optimal for productivity.
A plant’s air quality is one of the leading contributors to workforce comfort because, at the end of the day, nothing is quite so pervasive as the air employees breathe. That is why it’s important to ensure a product is in place that contributes to the safety and health of employees. Ideally this product also can reduce overall energy consumption and hence save costs.
The term “indoor air quality” typically refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, particularly as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Air quality is linked directly to proper air circulation, and—for larger facilities and manufacturing plants—high-volume low-speed (HVLS) installations can be optimal solutions because they move large volumes of air with minimal energy.
Some of the key benefits an HVLS fan over traditional high-speed fan options are reduced noise, minimized energy consumption per square foot and the cost savings of about $1 per day to operate. In addition, a HVLS fan’s cordless design allows for a safer work environment by eliminating trip hazards. During the warm summer months, one HVLS fan can replace as many as 20 floor flans or a dozen 48-inch barrel fans, creating an environment about 12 degrees cooler.
Also, a quality HVLS solution will continually push warm air trapped at the ceiling level back down to the floor, saving up to 30% on heating costs and evenly distributing warm air—making HVLS fans equally important during the winter months. This kind of thermal de-stratification is essential to ensuring that all employees are operating within a healthy, comfortable environment—regardless of where they are working on the plant floor.
In one instance, a warehouse in the Nashville region initially had been relying on several pedestal fans to cool their workforce during the brutally hot Tennessee summer. That method only provided relief for those employees working within the fans’ immediate vicinity. As a result, a facility manager fell sick from the heat and was not able to return to work, and the facility itself was forced to close its doors during the hottest portion of the summer.
With these coverage area challenges in mind, two 14-foot HVLS fans were installed, which generated a consistent breeze throughout the warehouse. Since then, the warehouse has remained open all year-long with an uninterrupted rate of productivity, and workers have indicated that the warehouse actually can be a more enjoyable environment than other sectors of the facility that are air-conditioned.
Indoor pollutants, which can play a significant role in indoor health concerns posing your workforce, are another key issue that HVLS fans help manage. Controlling these risks can in turn help reduce health-related leaves and call-outs by your workforce, boosting overall productivity. By consistently providing large-scale airflow, HVLS fans prevent stagnant air and a dust-riddled environment.
High air turns in particular eliminate toxic airborne chemicals at a much rapid pace. In addition to pollutants, HVLS fans also can be central to managing moisture in a facility—specifically where it relates to condensation. Often, condensation can form on the floor in between two different climate-controlled environments, presenting a significant safety hazard to workers. Quality indoor air movement helps quickly dry this condensation to both eliminate those fall risks and the pollutants and bacteria that can form from unchecked moisture. Another benefit of moving condensation out is the reduction of rust and corrosion on metal materials in workplaces.
A 2014 study by the Indian Statistical Institute entitled, “The Impact of Temperature on Productivity and Labor Supply: Evidence from Indian Manufacturing,” showed that labor productivity decreases in high temperature environments—with productivity reducing 3% per increase in one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). The study also stated that “sustained heat may reduce worker attendance,” a scenario we have seen repeated in numerous case studies across industries—from warehousing and distribution to manufacturing and food and beverage.
Regardless of your industry, your company’s success is ultimately built on the safety and health of your workforce. Managing your plant’s indoor air quality is one of the first—and most impactful—steps you can take to ensure workplace safety and overall employee comfort.
Jeff Chastain is the senior vice president and general manager of the Hunter Industrial Commercial Division.