September 3, 2012
Many industrial processes generate quite a bit of heat, so keeping workers cool is a top priority. Wheatland Tube Co., Wheatland, Pa., added portable cooling units to lower the temperatures in its galvanizing and cutting areas. This initiative increased the time workers spend in these areas and eliminated heat-related incidents.
Protecting workers from the heat generated by manufacturing processes is an issue in many industries, and tube and pipe production is no exception. Wheatland Tube Co., Sharon, Pa., a division of JMC Steel Corp., wanted to be proactive about safety and find a way to rein in temperatures and improve worker comfort and productivity.
Its Council Ave. facility in Wheatland, Pa., which employs nearly 500, has an open galvanizing area where pipe goes through at extremely high temperatures. Even with a 56,000-CFM exhaust system to vent out the heated air, ambient temperatures varied from about 80 degrees F in winter up to 120 degrees F, and occasionally higher, in summer.
“Workers could stay in the galvanizing area for only 30 minutes before being relieved,” said Greg Safran, JMC safety manager. Safran worked with Jerry Dyer, owner and consulting safety engineer of NorthCoast Services Group LLC, Lake Orion, Mich., to discuss remedies. Dyer recommended the use of industrial-grade, portable air conditioners that could be moved around the facility to deliver spot cooling.
After initial research, Dyer contacted Atlas Sales & Rentals. Wheatland agreed to rent portable equipment from Atlas to cool two processes: the galvanizing pots and a hot rack area where tubing is formed and cut to precision lengths.
Initially the company tried 1- and 2-ton portable air conditioners, but these units did not provide quite enough cooling clout for the application. They upgraded to a Classic series 60 air-cooled unit manufactured by MovinCool/DENSO Sales California Inc. The 460-V, 5-ton-capacity (60,000 BTUs per hour) cooler is designed to operate at high ambient temperatures.
“The Atlas portable cooling has reduced ambient temperatures by about 30 degrees in these areas, which has made a big difference to our workers,” Safran stated. Instead of being limited to 30 minutes, Wheatland crews now can work for two hours in the galvanizing area before needing relief for ergonomic fatigue, not heat fatigue. Safran said that there were no heat-related illnesses in the plant last summer since installing the coolers, compared with four to five incidents per year over the previous two seasons, and twice that number in earlier years.
“Safety is always the No. 1 goal,” Safran noted, adding, “When you make workers safer and more comfortable, efficiency and productivity are enhanced as well as morale,It’s a win-win situation.”
Safran has purchased one portable cooler for the plant and rents several supplemental units.
“We like the flexibility of being able to use portable cooling when and where we need it, and of having a responsive supplier to help us find solutions,” Safran said.