By Suzanne Rowe
At least a few days a week, my job as both the sales and project manager for ThermaXX involves entering boiler rooms, mechanical spaces, and central heating plants. When rounding the corner leading to that space, I often feel the heat wafting down the corridor. Fortunately my background as an estimator and project manager has prepared me so I know what to expect.
The dangers of working in overheated spaces are basic but often ignored and may lead to sickness and even fatalities. Given these facts, I always take precautions when surveying a mechanical space with excessive heat.
The body reacts to heat by increasing the blood flow to the skin’s surface and by sweating. Someone wearing protective clothing and performing work in hot and humid conditions could be at risk of heat stress. Dehydration and increased heart rate could eventually lead to the body’s control mechanism failing. Heat stress is often accompanied by an inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, fainting, headache and nausea.
Multiple studies have shown that heat stress has a profound impact on workplace errors and accidents. For example, according to an article in Occupational Health & Safety, a study by NASA showed that mistakes made by telegraph operators went from 5 in one hour at 80° F to 60 in one hour at 95° F.
OSHA considers workplace heat to be a serious concern, and offers guidelines for heat stress.
It is clear that employers must take precautions to address hot work spaces to make the workplace a safe environment. For example, the installation of removable insulation on exposed steam components can instantly cool hot spaces. At many of the insulation projects I have managed, the “after temp” has often been 30° F cooler. Below are links to 3 case studies, where we have achieved dramatic ambient temperature reductions at universities via removable insulation.
Our clients are contacting us for energy savings and walking away with not only great ROI, but also a safer, more comfortable space.