Summertime Heat Threatens Worker Morale, Productivity if Unchallenged

Eric Frederick |

Every summer, the mercury rises and laundry employees must adapt to hotter, more humid conditions.
The very nature of the laundry business makes it difficult if not impossible to air-condition the entire laundry. It is imperative for managers to assist their employees in adapting to these changing conditions.
Productivity and morale depend upon what we as managers can do to improve the condition within our laundries. Fortunately, there are a number of measures that can be taken to help lessen the problems associated with heat and humidity without breaking our operational budgets.AVOID HOTTEST PART OF DAY
I’ve always found that the period between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. is the hottest part of the day. Shift hours can be changed so that these hours can be avoided, by either starting the day shift earlier and/or starting the afternoon shift later.GOOD AIR CIRCULATION
The goal is to generate enough air exchanges so the inside temperature of the laundry is within 5 degrees of the outside temperature.
When I visit old-time laundries, they seem to have been designed and built on this principle. Hot air is exhausted from the upper portions of the laundry where it is normally found. Incoming air is brought in from the sides of the building, 3 to 5 feet off the ground. This airflow was designed to provide a constant flow through the laundry, removing the hottest air and bringing in the coolest available air.
I am always amazed that modern laundries are designed to both exhaust hot air and bring in makeup air off the roof. The roof often provides the hottest air that can be found. If this is the case with your laundry, consider relocating some of your fresh air intake to another location.ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF COLD WATER
I used to supply Gatorade for my employees but was advised that it is not a good idea for employees who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Plain water is the best refreshment for our employees.
Employees should be educated about the detrimental effects that high-sugar drinks have on rehydration. Sugar slows the absorption of fluids and actually makes a bad situation worse.ROTATE JOB ASSIGNMENTS
We all know that some jobs are more difficult to perform than others. Rotate your employees so that fatigue doesn’t become a problem. This is especially important during sudden heat spells when your employees’ bodies do not have time to adjust to the changes in the environment.PROVIDE FANS
Provide spot cooling fans that improve air movement over a workstation. Air movement, even hot air, improves the body’s natural cooling system by increasing evaporation. Feeling the air movement that a fan provides can give your employees a tremendous physiological boost.ALLOW EXTRA BREAKS
It makes good sense to allow your employees some extra time away from their stations on hot days.COMFORTABLE BREAK ROOM
Provide an air-conditioned break room for your employees.COVERED OUTDOOR PATIO
Provide a covered outdoor patio for your employees to use on their breaks.SPOT-COOLING SYSTEMS
Investigate using spot-cooling systems. While this is a more expensive option, it can provide real cost savings in labor and, depending on the system, even energy.
We use a system that is designed to preheat our incoming well water by taking heat out of the air inside the laundry. This process not only warms our incoming water to 110 F but it provides a byproduct of cool air to a number of our workstations. To me, this a real win-win scenario.
You may have seen some spot cooling systems displayed at the Clean Show. The cost of many of them can easily be justified by the higher productivity you’ll gain during the summer months through their use.
Besides these steps, management should never fail to thank the employees for their efforts on hot, humid days. I’ve been known to pass out sugar-free Popsicles® on extremely hot days.
For some areas of the country, those days are few and far between. For others, it is a more regular event.
Either way, there are always steps you can take 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


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