The past few years have changed how warehouses operate. The pandemic spurred a boom in online shopping, leading to increased demand. However, supply chain disruptions make it hard to keep up with orders. Labor shortages, backlogs and other issues have forced managers to rethink how their warehouse operates.
Warehouses worldwide have reorganized, streamlined, increased staff and taken other measures to optimize operations. However, one aspect managers often forget about is the air quality. Good air quality can go a long way in helping your working conditions and employee productivity.
Why is the air quality poor?
To improve the air quality, you must understand what is negatively affecting it in the first place. Sometimes, the culprits are obvious, but other factors aren’t as evident. Poor air quality in your warehouse can come from:
Exhaust fumes: Fleets of vehicles, especially long-haul trucks, will emit a lot of exhaust fumes. It’s hard to control the fumes with many trucks coming and going daily. Exposed workers are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning and other health issues.
Chemicals: Other factors impacting air quality are chemicals from raw materials or manufacturing processes. One suspect in your warehouse could be volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They could come from automotive products or the printer in your office.
Mold: Some people call mold the silent killer for a good reason. You may see it in your warehouse because it’s in a high-humidity location. In other cases, the air does not circulate properly, causing mold to grow on boxes. Warehouses tend to be warmer, allowing an ideal environment for mold.
Can you improve air quality?
Indoor air quality is as essential as ever with today’s e-commerce demands. Some factors, like exhaust fumes, are hard to circumvent. However, these five solutions show how warehouses can improve the working environment.
One of the best solutions on the market is a high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fan. HVLS fans significantly increase the airflow in a warehouse without interfering with the workflow. Your employees will only feel a light breeze. Warehouses tend to be warm, so these fans will keep the facility more comfortable during the summer.
HVLS fans are ideal because they go into the ceiling and can replace the bulky models you have on the warehouse floor. Floor fans can cause tripping and occupy critical space, and HVLS versions improve organization and safety. They also improve a warehouse’s energy efficiency by simultaneously lowering the temperature and consuming less energy.
Another solution for improving air quality is humidity sensors. These devices are handy whether your warehouse is in a dry or humid climate. Sensors are beneficial because they can give you real-time updates on humidity levels. Bacteria and mold grow much faster in high humidity. It also puts your warehouse at risk for dust mites and uncomfortable working conditions.
Alternatively, the absence of humidity can negatively affect workers with respiratory issues. It can also cause employees to have dry and itchy skin. Use a humidity sensor to determine if you need to add or decrease the levels in your warehouse. Regulating moisture is integral for protecting people and products.
Electronic air cleaner
This method for improving air quality involves your HVAC system. Installing an electronic air cleaner (EAC) will significantly benefit the warehouse because it aims to eliminate impurities. EACs collect liquid and solid objects from the air but don’t affect the building’s airflow.
Today’s EACs are advanced and can mitigate smoke, smog and dust. The machine’s polarization technology removes larger particles like mold spores that other systems have difficulty stopping. One benefit of EACs is you can readily install them in your HVAC unit. Most EACs will fit your current system, so you likely won’t need a new one.
Another option is to use ultraviolet energy with an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) system. UVGIs use shortwave UV light to kill harmful microorganisms in your warehouse. Viruses, bacteria and fungi can’t survive when exposed to UV rays. The ones that do become inactivated and won’t be able to reproduce.
You can install UVGIs in your HVAC system at the coils or establish them with the EAC, mitigating the bacteria and pathogens from growing inside the unit. One benefit of UVGIs and EACs is they require little maintenance. UVGIs keep your HVAC clean and reduce the frequency of manually cleaning the system. UVGIs can be an excellent part of your protocols to protect workers during the pandemic.
Another way to curb microorganism problems in the warehouse is to control the building’s pressure. Proper pressure in every room, especially the bathrooms, reduces the threat of microorganisms. You can install pressure sensors throughout the facility to give managers more control over conditions.
A building’s pressurization is an aspect of improving air quality that many people overlook. Controlling the pressure in your warehouse keeps the facility well-insulated, which can be critical in the summer and winter. Sensors have high- and low-pressure ports working together. The device detects the difference in static pressure and changes to create more positive pressure.
Improving warehouse air quality
The pandemic, e-commerce and the supply chain have strained warehouse workers in the last two years. Managers have started to get creative with streamlining and optimizing processes for maximum efficiency but sometimes forget about air quality. Improper circulation can lead to mold and exhaust fumes harming employees. Use these five solutions to improve your facility's air quality and working conditions.