29 Jul 2022

3 cooling equipment solutions for effective heat stress management

Heat stress management for manufacturing sector
 

With constantly running equipment creating friction, energy, and emissions, plants are no strangers to warm conditions. But when summer hits and temperatures rise, many manufacturing facilities aren’t prepared to take the heat. Is yours?

High heat is unavoidable. But, without a good heat stress management plan, it can create a cascade of problems for your plant, including equipment malfunctions, delays, and shutdown.

Most importantly of all, it can harm your employees – with fallout that includes legal, moral, and financial ramifications.

While you may not be able to prevent the heat, you can protect your team from its effects and improve safety in the manufacturing industry with a comprehensive heat stress management plan.

Below, you’ll learn:

  • What heat stress is and how it can impact your team
  • The signs and symptoms of heat stress to watch out for
  • How to maintain ideal temperatures and humidity ranges for your facility

Aggreko has been in the business of providing heat stress management solutions for over 50 years. Our deep understanding of safety in the manufacturing industry will ensure your employees are comfortable, safe, and productive – no matter how high the mercury rises.

Heat stress safety in the manufacturing industry

Your plant can’t afford to overlook heat stress. High heat conditions can create an uncomfortable or unsafe working environment, leading to an increase in errors and accidents and potentially dire consequences for your personnel.

All of the above can also result in downtime, loss of productivity, loss of inventory, and other direct and indirect costs.

In terms of concrete health impacts, heat stress can bring about a range of negative outcomes, from minor inconveniences to major emergencies, including:

  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Burns from incidental contact with hot surfaces and other injuries
  • Heat cramps: spastic contractions of muscles, particularly in the extremities
  • Heat exhaustion: high core body temperature, exhaustion, and abnormal function
  • Heat stroke – excessive rise in body temperature above 106°F (41.1°C), leading to sudden and sustained loss of consciousness preceded by vertigo, nausea, headache, cerebral dysfunction, bizarre behavior, and excessive body temperature

But while high heat is unavoidable, heat stress is manageable. The key is to take proactive steps before it becomes a problem, rather than respond in the “heat” of the moment. By inoculating your plant against future heat-related issues, you and your employees can rest easy.

Solutions for heat stress management

Whether you’re responding to a high-heat emergency or contingency-planning for the summer months, heat stress management is about putting in place a solution that can cool your plant and work around the clock.

An ideal heat stress solution is one that helps maintain safe and comfortable working conditions, facilitates productivity, and minimizes the risk of downtime.

It should also be affordable – keeping operational costs low and minimizing the burden on your bottom line. It’s also important to understand that once the cooling process starts, you don’t want it to stop. In addition to being logistically problematic, repeatedly stopping and starting the cooling process can be expensive, impairing profitability (on top of your capacity for heat mitigation).

So what cooling equipment is best for heat stress management?

Temporary and supplemental air conditioners

Many plants and their HVAC systems are designed for static conditions. By extrapolating from weather history in a region, and combining that with heat generation and air-handling needs, engineers can estimate how much cooling capacity a system will require on average over a certain amount of time.

But averages don't tell the whole story. Extremely hot summer months and surprise heat waves can cause fluctuations that are too much for existing systems to handle.

And that's where temporary and supplemental air conditioners come into play.

Temporary and supplemental air conditioners, like our 1-70 ton machines, can either replace existing equipment during planned or unplanned maintenance, or supplement your HVAC system during high heat periods without requiring you to invest in permanent, expensive equipment.

Temporary and supplemental air conditioners can be used in a variety of settings, including:

  • Commercial HVAC systems, where additional cooling may be needed during peak hours or high heat periods
  • Industrial plants to provide spot cooling for equipment and employees during maintenance or unexpected downtime.

Air conditioners come in many shapes and sizes, from industrial-grade air conditioners for large-scale cooling to spot coolers for targeted cooling.

Industrial chillers and air handlers for large plants

High heat can create big problems for large manufacturing plants. In contrast with smaller commercial spaces, large facilities tend to have more demanding cooling needs, and their equipment can be significantly more expensive.

For one, the building’s size and manufacturing type can contribute to high heat loads, requiring greater cooling capacity. Plus, large facilities are more likely to operate 24/7, resulting in more energy consumption (which can impact profitability).

How can a large plant maintain safe working conditions for its employees and avoid damaging equipment or disrupting operations – at scale?

One solution for large facilities is the installation of extremely powerful air conditioners, also known as industrial chillers. Industrial chillers are bigger and more powerful than regular commercial air conditioners, and capable of cooling larger spaces.

Our industrial chillers come in many different types and sizes (from 10-ton to 1,000-ton units), and they typically have one thing in common: the ability to cool water to temperatures much lower than most air conditioners. While the majority of ACs are limited to ~60°F, chillers can cool water to 38°F – and in some cases, even lower.

By circulating this cooled water through a building, industrial chillers are effective tools for temperature control.

And when combined with air handlers, they’re strong solutions for air-conditioning large plants. Water- or air-cooled industrial chillers allow plants to achieve the correct temperature, while air handlers distribute the cooling for air conditioning.

Dehumidifiers

Though high temperatures are the root cause of heat stress-related problems, humidity is a key compounding factor that many plants don't take into account.

When the air is saturated with water vapor, it can make conditions feel even hotter than they are, which exacerbates the deleterious effects of heat stress.

High humidity leads to severe discomfort, while accelerating the impacts of heat on your employees. Because of the higher water concentration in the air, the body is less able to effectively sweat as a cooling mechanism – leading to higher internal temperature, fogging of PPE, and lower performance.

And not only does high humidity put your team at greater risk, but it can also lead to equipment failures. For example, electronic components are particularly sensitive to high humidity levels and can malfunction as a result.

To address these risks, you need a way to remove excess moisture from the air. And the most effective way to do this is with one of our industrial dehumidifiers.

Designed for large-scale moisture removal, dehumidifiers can help you keep humidity levels in check and make your facility more comfortable for both your team and your equipment.

In conjunction with a comprehensive cooling solution, dehumidifiers help plants control ambient conditions and can decrease the impact of heat stress on staff.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SOLUTIONS FOR THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY

Final thoughts

High heat isn't just a possibility – for many plants, it's an inevitability. This can wreak havoc on your personnel and hurt your operations, whether it's through employee discomfort and exhaustion, or equipment damage and malfunction.

But by being proactive and implementing a heat stress management plan, you can keep your plant running smoothly regardless of ambient conditions.

At Aggreko, our engineering combines deep expertise in the sector and a wide-ranging fleet of cooling equipment, plus 24/7 remote monitoring, to provide you with tailored heat stress mitigation solutions.

With over five decades of experience providing safety in the manufacturing industry, we can offer you with the support you need to beat the heat and keep your team safe and healthy without disrupting production. Take control of your plant’s heat conditions today, protect your employees’ health, and build for tomorrow with one of Aggreko’s smart heat management solutions now!

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