The New York Times published a story on August 10, 2023, to their podcast series, The Daily, titled “Lives, Livelihoods, and the High Cost of Heat.” In this episode, NYT reporter, Sabrina Tavernise, asks the question, “What is the physical and economic consequences of higher temperatures in the United States?” In seeking to answer this question, she interviews colleagues who detail the impact of heat on worker safety and productivity in indoor facilities in the businesses of manufacturing and industrial warehousing. Although this impact seems daunting, it can be mitigated with RDC solutions, like industrial fans.
The cost of worker productivity is an immense challenge for the economy right now, as Sabrina’s colleague, Coral Davenport, explains “One study shows that right now in the United States as a direct result of heat, the US is losing about 2.5 billion hours of work per year. That translates, a study found, into about $100 billion of economic loss per year and projects that would go up to about $500 billion a year by the middle of the century.” She goes on to say, “A lot of factories were built 30, 40 years ago at a time when the climate was different in areas like Ohio, or Michigan, or parts of the country where you wouldn’t necessarily need air conditioning in a factory.” And “workers are consistently experiencing days where they are regularly working in conditions over 90 and 100 degrees.”
So, the problem right now is protecting worker quality of life and trying to regain a positive economic impact in a time of rising heat in many areas of the country. One solution may be installing internal cooling systems, but doing so in an existing, large industrial facility can cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars. The interviewee continues by stating, “And so I think this is genuinely a set of costs that employers have to look at, are looking at, across the country. They’re saying on one side, we’re losing worker productivity. We’re losing worker hours. I’m paying more workers’ comp. We’re having to close on super hot days, all of that is like a really clear loss on one side of the ledger. On the other side is, well, do I invest $100 million on indoor cooling? Or do I just take the hit in productivity?”
In most states, there is currently no federal regulation through OSHA that protects workers from heat exposure. The NYT states, “The expectation is what OSHA is working on is expected to set some kind of heat standards. Workers who are working over a certain temperature or exposed to certain temperatures for a certain amount of time must be given breaks, must be given water. Indoor workplaces where workers are exposed to heat may need to install air conditioning.”
There is a faster, more cost-effective opportunity to upgrade facility standards for the benefit of worker productivity, and that is with industrial fans. Rite-Hite industrial fans, supplied by Robert Dietrick Company, are designed to circulate the air in facilities more efficiently and effectively. Rite-Hite Fans offer a year-round fundamental change in building environments by keeping people cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The cost of installing and maintaining an industrial fan system is a fraction of the price of central cooling, and many units can be installed in less than a day.
Fans may not generate the same cooling impact as an HVAC system, but you can create a big impact fast and for a fraction of the cost. Now is the time to act to quickly regain the cost of lost productivity on hot days in your facility.