A breath of fresh air

27 June 2018

Dirt and dust is commonplace when working in warehouses and distribution facilities, and if you don’t manage it effectively, it can cause serious issues. Here, Renby look at how you can manage your air quality, to ensure the health of your staff isn’t jeopardised

Typical operations conducted in warehouses and distribution facilities will usually result in a heavy airborne dust load, which can ultimately damage employee health, and negatively impact packing machinery performance.

Illnesses include cold-like symptoms such as headaches, a blocked nose and itchy eyes, as well as more serious issues including asthma, other respiratory illnesses and even cancer.

Excessive dust can also clog machinery if they’re not cleaned on a regular basis. Couple both of those issues with the fact that pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, NO and NO2 (commonly emitted by diesel vehicles) are often present in the air in warehouses and other distribution facilities, in addition to carbon monoxide, and you’ve suddenly got a very dangerous situation on your hands.

Common causes of poor air quality

Over 2.2 million people are employed in 196,000 companies in the UK logistics industry, and many of them are exposed to alarming levels of dust and dirt on a daily basis.

There are several causes of poor indoor air quality, especially within warehouse and distribution facilities. It’s important you identify why this is happening, so you can start to work on a solution. Common issues include:

  • Poor ventilation or poor maintenance of ventilation systems, especially in winter 
  • Exhaust fumes from around the loading bays
  • Emissions from manufacturing, picking and packing processes
  • Outdoor pollution entering the area
  • Idle forklifts, or prolonged use of operation

How to resolve air quality issues

There are a few ways in which you can purify the air, so as not to jeopardise employees’ health, and keep machinery running at optimum performance.

One way is to invest in a specialist air cleaner. They work alongside your ventilation system, removing dusts, contaminants and other harmful particles from the atmosphere. Once the air is free from these particles, they will continue to operate at a lower frequency, to keep your workspace safe.

If you use forklifts in your warehouse or distribution centre, then you need to conduct quarterly checks to check they’re not emitting large amounts of exhaust fumes. Keep an eye out for a worn-out engine, or a leaking exhaust system. You could also install a catalytic converter to your forklift, which will drastically reduce the amount of carbon emissions entered into your warehouse. Alternatively, you may wish to ditch the diesel altogether, for an electric forklift instead.

You should also monitor the air in your warehouse to see if carbon monoxide is present, as that can be deadly. Monitor over an eight hour period for the best results, and you can do this in the following ways:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with automatic sensors, that work alongside your ventilation fans
  • Hand-held carbon monoxide gas analysers
  • Personal electronic detectors with alarms, which are particularly useful for daily monitoring

Finally, you should speak to your employees about this, so they’re educated on air quality management. It can sound scary at first, but in order to keep air of a good quality, it’s important that everyone who’s working in the area understands the sources of poor air, and knows how to monitor and deal with this.

When working in a warehouse or distribution facility, it’s important that you legally comply with COSHH guidelines (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health). That means that you need to manage your air quality to ensure it’s safe for workers. These tips will help you to rid dangerous particles from the atmosphere, and keeping it clean and safe in the long term.