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Beat the Heat and Keep the Job (and Air) Moving

Employee productivity is a crucial piece of the puzzle of running a successful business. While incorporating air movement on construction sites might not be at the forefront of owners’ and operators’ minds, the health and safety of their employees often is a top priority. Connecting the dots between air movement and the well-being of employees ensures everyone working on construction sites remains productive and healthy—especially during hot summer months.

Technological advances in mobile and portable fans allow airflow to reach workers in every type of space, without creating a safety hazard. This air movement works to help keep employees cool and comfortable, reducing hazardous conditions in the workplace and maintaining productivity.

Dangers of heat

Hot construction sites, both indoors and out, pose threats not only to employee health, but also to the success of the business. Studies have shown worker productivity decreases steadily as temperatures rise above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.  OSHA standards indicate temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and higher are dangerous for workers, while air temperatures that exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit significantly increase the heat load on the body. Heat stress is defined as a group of conditions that result from being overly exposed to, or overexertion in, excessive ambient temperatures. Although often overlooked as a serious ailment, heat stress is a condition that can result in potentially fatal heat stroke, as well as heat rash, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

Beyond hot working conditions, construction workers’ layers of protective clothing are often worn on the job. When humidity and temperature levels begin to elevate, the body’s natural ability to cool itself decreases, posing a serious threat to employees. Additionally, construction workers often have to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves against job-related hazards.  While effective at preventing cuts, scrapes and contusions, the PPE further hinders the body from being able to cool itself naturally.

For decades NASA has studied human physical performance at elevated temperatures and high humidity. A strong correlation exists between heat and work-related accidents. Besides being unsafe, discomfort issues also can negatively impact productivity and the bottom line. Studies show elevated temperatures affect mental and physical work. Hot working conditions deplete worker morale, increase absenteeism and turnover, lower the quality of workmanship, and increase the frequency of accidents and grievances.

ASHRAE Standard 55-2010 identifies a combination of six primary environmental and personal factors to make thermal environmental conditions suitable to occupants a building. A thermal environment that is acceptable to at least 80 percent of employees is considered to be a satisfactory level of thermal comfort per Standard 55.

Fan technology

Air movement can help people feel up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. The best way to move a lot of air with little energy is an ancient concept—fans. However, new advances in fan technology have created multiple effective, efficient options for construction sites. After thorough research and development, these fans’ energy efficient motors provide serious airflow without breaking the bank. Beyond being built to withstand the harshest environments while able to be easily transported, cutting-edge fans include an added option for serious cooling—misting kits. Unlike basic air movement, a breeze combined with an ultra-fine mist of water can lower the actual indoor or outdoor air temperature by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Made of ceramic, high-performance misting nozzles are designed for durability and reduced clogging. This revolutionary technology provides a cooling effect without the wetness produced by other misting systems. When simple air movement is needed, the misting system can be turned off.

“The newest generation of man-coolers has taken portability and durability to a whole new level, and when combined with a misting option, provide workers the much-needed relief they need to keep working hard and safe,” says Jason Hollan, systems engineering manager of Big Ass Fans, Lexington, Ky.

Benefits of Air Movement

Aside from reducing heat-related incidents, incorporating air movement on construction sites can combat other issues as well. Dust and dirt swirling through the air, along with construction materials that may contain harsh chemicals and toxins, add more potentially harmful elements to a job site. Fans can help turn the air over several times per hour, creating uniform air distribution, helping to reduce the chance of injury or illness related to poor air quality.

“The buildup of noxious fumes, odors and other contaminants in stagnant air is a common problem,” Hollan says. “In addition to their ability to provide energy efficient thermal comfort, the strategic use of fans facilitates the mixing and turnover of air in a space, improving the working conditions for everyone in the facility.”

With a steady stream of airflow, fans can also keep pesky insects at bay while reducing safety risks created by other fans such as trip hazards from cords and excessive noise. High-quality fans manufactured with tight construction and efficient airfoils produce massive amounts of air with very little noise, allowing jobsites to run smoothly with open lines of communication.

Whether a jobsite is inside or out, the threat of heat-related illness always looms if proper measures are not taken to combat the issue. Simple, effective air movement from fans is a win-win for business owners as employees are safe and productive, allowing construction executives to focus on running a successful construction site.

Photo – BigAssfans.com