Managers struggling with slip and fall issues in their workspaces could be well served to raise their eyes instead of fixating on the floor – they just might find a solution on the ceiling.
Slippery conditions often are caused by the same thing that makes it hard to get a grip on a frosty beverage in the summertime: condensation. Concrete slabs are known to sweat any time there’s a change in temperature or humidity. The options for dealing with this phenomenon range from air conditioning your entire facility (the more expensive option) to increasing air movement with highly efficient large-diameter, low-speed overhead fans.
Industrial facilities worldwide have seen the condensation-busting effect of these fans, which range in size up to 24 feet in diameter and use their immense size rather than speed to move air throughout an entire space – from high ceilings to the floor, and from wall to door.
Airing Out Slip and Fall Risks
Condensation occurs when warm air contacts a cold surface. As the air becomes colder, it loses its ability to store moisture. Those little droplets of water can be a big problem.
Spring and fall condensation can result in serious operational issues and product loss. In the spring, a concrete slab will trail the air temperature by about a month. So while the April air is a balmy 72 degrees F, the slab might still be stuck in March at 50 degrees F. Warm air sits on this cold slab, dropping moisture as it cools. In the fall, cold metal coming off a truck into a warmed space can cause the same effect.
Although condensation is more probable in areas of high relative humidity1, industrial air movement systems can help to reduce condensation buildup in any facility, regardless of climate.
Just outside Charlotte, N.C., HVAC equipment distributor N.B. Handy had a common conundrum: slippery floors caused by condensation. Anytime there was a change in humidity or weather, the warehouse’s concrete floor began to sweat, creating a standing puddle that was referred to as “Lake Handy.”
“The forklifts were unsafe to drive because they couldn’t stop, and people would slip on the water,” said Blake Boleman, N.B. Handy operations manager.
After N.B. Handy installed five large-diameter, low-speed fans, “Lake Handy” experienced a record drought, drying up completely and creating safer working conditions.
Safety’s Looking Up
Pallet manufacturer John Rock Inc. inadvertently created a safety issue when designing its new production facility with a slick concrete floor.
“We spent a lot of money to make sure we had a very smooth floor so we could move efficiently,” said Penn Cooper. “We created a huge skating rink issue, just because it’s wet.”
At John Rock Inc., six 24-ft. diameter fans thoroughly mix the air, resulting in only slight temperature differences from floor to ceiling and reducing the opportunity for condensation to form.
“The fans dramatically improve the safety here,” Cooper said. “They’ve been a real blessing for us. I never would have thought it would work so well.”
As these examples suggest, EHS professionals who face condensation safety concerns should consider starting with one simple action: looking up.
- 1R. Mason et al., “Advanced Coatings and Processes for Field and Depot Corrosion Repair of Military Hydraulic Components,” in proceedings from NACExpo 2006, 61st Annual Conference and Exposition, March 2006.
Erin Hsu is senior copywriter for Big Ass Fans, a designer and manufacturer of large-diameter, low-speed fans.