Tips for Staying Warm in a Warehouse During the Winter
Unfortunately, it’s the nature of a warehouse to be cold during the winter. With large loading doors opening and closing frequently during the day and night, it can seem nearly impossible to keep your warehouse warm during winter. Not only is this problematic from a facility management standpoint, but it can also create a less than comfortable workspace that is challenging for your workers. There are ways, however, to combat the cold in your warehouse during the winter, lower your utility bills, improve productivity, and provide a comfortable environment for your employees.
Keeping the Warehouse Warm
During the winter, especially in colder climates, it isn’t going to be possible to keep your warehouse at a comfortable 72 degrees. Your loading bay doors will need to be open regularly, which allows cold air to come into the warehouse, keeping the temperatures low. However, there are ways that you can increase warmth in your warehouse, creating a more comfortable place to work.
- Check the Doors. If the loading doors don’t need to be open all the time, make sure that they are closed. This is the easiest way to keep your warehouse at a more comfortable winter temperature. Doors that need to be open on a more constant basis can be fitted with plastic sheeting that will allow easy movement through the door, but provide some barrier from the elements outside. Before it gets too cold, it’s also a good idea to make sure that your loading area doors are well sealed. This will reduce drafts, making a better barrier for your warehouse when the doors are closed. Finally, make sure that your doors are maintained and the motors to lift the doors are functioning properly. This will reduce the likelihood that a door will get stuck open when the weather is poor.
- Improve Warehouse Airflow. Airflow patterns in warehouses can be challenging. There are a lot of barriers that disrupt smooth airflow through your warehouse, and high ceilings tend to hold on to the warm air. Improving the way air moves through your warehouse can make a substantial difference in the overall climate in your facility. There are few ways that this can be accomplished.
- Fans – this is a relatively inexpensive way to improve airflow in your warehouse. Using high volume low speed (HVLS) fans can help move warm air through your warehouse, and pull warm air away from the ceiling. Fans are low energy, so installing fans in your warehouse will not make a significant impact to your utility bills.
- Warehouse Layout – Look at the configuration of your space. How are the shelves arranged? Do your aisles create wind tunnels? If your warehouse layout allows cold air to move easily from the doors to the rest of the building, it may be time to consider moving things around.
- A Shelving Upgrade – This is probably the costliest way to improve airflow. If you have solid shelving, but could convert to low-profile wire shelving, you can greatly increase the airflow in your warehouse. These shelves aren’t practical for all warehouses, but they may be a good solution in the right facility.
- More Heaters. If you find that you have spots that are constantly cold, despite making other changes, the best solution may just be adding more heaters. New radiant heaters are highly efficient and create a good amount of heat for large spaces.
- Service Your HVAC System. Finally, make sure that your HVAC system is ready for the winter. Have a HVAC professional visit your facility and give your system a good tune-up and service to ensure that it is functioning as efficiently as possible.
Keeping Your Workers Warm
You’ve made the first steps to improving the climate in your warehouse. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be like working in a cozy office. Your warehouse is still going to be cooler than the rest of your facility, so it’s important that you have the right resources to help keep your employees warm and safe as well.
- Train Your Workers. Make sure that your employees are trained in how to work safely in the cold. This is especially true in facilities that have high output and keep loading doors open more consistently. Employees should know how to recognize the signs of cold stress, and there should be a facility policy about how long an employee can work in the cold. Employees should also be trained in what PPE is necessary and how to properly layer their clothing so they stay warm, comfortable and can work safely.
- Engineering Controls. This sounds complicated but it really is quite simple. Provide your employees with places to get warm. This may be a heated office or breakroom in the warehouse, or just some good radiant heaters that they can stand near to warm up. You may also want to make sure that your employees have access to warm beverages like coffee or tea. These will warm them from the inside, out.
- Provide the Right Equipment. There are no OSHA requirements that say you have to provide your workers with a coat, hat, gloves or ordinary winter clothing. However, as an employer, it’s in your best interest to make sure that your employees have what they need to work safely. This may mean providing a good warm coat, warm gloves, a proper winter hat, and insulated and waterproof boots. When your employees have the right equipment to do their job, be warm and comfortable, and are safe doing their job, your warehouse is more efficient and productive.
Working in a warehouse can be tough in the winter. As a facility manager or business owner, there are measures that you can take to make your warehouse more comfortable for your employees, and reduce your utility costs. Check out the training programs offered online at ForkliftCertification.com to train your workers in warehouse safety, cold stress, and OSHA compliance.