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Some Cool Tips for Coping with Heat

Eric Frederick |

The summer heat has truly been oppressive, but that’s nothing new. Every summer, the mercury rises and my employees ask me when I’m going to air-condition the laundry. Every year I explain to them that it’s not cost-effective to air-condition our laundry but we’ll do what we can to make working here easier, including:• Using heat pumps. Preheating our incoming water by using the laundry’s hot air in turn produces cool air – spot cooling – for the employees. It works well as long as we’re washing linen and using water. As soon as the washers shut down, the cooling ends.• Changing shift hours so we avoid the hottest part of the day. This means starting day shift early in the morning or changing afternoon shift to later hours. Our hottest time of the day is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. so we try to avoid working then. We normally stagger our start-up, starting our soil-sort area several hours ahead of the main production crew. Normally, we’d start washing an hour before the production crew starts, but because of the need to provide comfort cooling from our heat pumps in the summer, we start the washers at the same time as the production employees.• Providing good air circulation. Moving air speeds up evaporation and helps the body to stay cool. Our goal is to generate enough air exchanges so the laundry is within 5 degrees of the outside temperature.• Providing ice water. I used to supply Gatorade but was advised that drinking Gatorade isn’t good for employees who have high blood pressure or diabetes. We discourage the use of sugary drinks like soda or other sweetened drinks. Sugar slows down the body’s ability to absorb liquid from the stomach. We also discourage eating sugary foods. We have an ice machine available for employees’ use to make sure that water can be kept ice-cold.• Rotating job assignments. We all know that some assignments are harder than others. We rotate assignments as much as possible so that fatigue doesn’t become a problem. Many employees don’t want to rotate off their normal piece of equipment or job assignment. This presents a challenge, and we work with each employee on an individual basis.• Providing spot-cooling fans that provide air movement over specific workstations. Air movement increases the effectiveness of the body’s natural cooling system. It especially helps in areas of the laundry that seem to have little circulation.• Allowing extra breaks during extremely hot weather. We normally give our employees two 15-minute breaks a day, but we’ve tried giving them three 10-minute breaks when it’s really hot. We’re aware that this potentially lessens our production because of an additional start-up and shut-down, but we feel it’s worth the expense because the employees appear to be more productive on the job by taking the more frequent breaks.• Providing an air-conditioned break room. This haven allows the employees to cool down and refresh while on their break. We’ve also provided a shaded outside area for the employees to use.• Providing adequate refrigerator space so employees can keep food cold. Instead of buying several large refrigerators, we purchased a large drink display cooler like the ones found in convenience stores. This makes getting food in or out easy and provides ample, high-quality storage space.• Buying sugar-free Popsicles®. During extremely hot weather, management will buy the sugar-free treats for the employees to eat on their breaks. It’s a small gesture but one the employees really like. In addition to these steps, management never fails to thank the employees for their efforts on hot, humid days. For some areas of the country, those days are far and few between; for others, it’s a more regular event. Either way, there are always steps that can be taken to make the workload easier.
 

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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