Keeping workers cool during hot manufacturing processes is an issue for many industrial plants – but nowhere is the challenge greater than in the production of steel pipe and tube. Wheatland Tube, a division of JMC Steel Corp., believes in being proactive about safety and found a way to rein in temperatures and improve worker comfort and productivity at their Council Avenue plant (Wheatland, Pa.) using portable air conditioners supplied by Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc.
The Council Avenue facility, 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 ranged from about 80o F in winter up to 120o F or higher in summer.
“Workers could only stay in the galvanizing area for 30 minutes before being relieved,” says Greg Safran, JMC safety manager at Council Avenue. Safran worked with Jerry Dyer, owner and consulting safety engineer of NorthCoast Services Group, LLC (Lake Orion, Mich.), to explore solutions. Applying technology that is frequently used in the automotive industry, Dyer recommended the use of industrial-grade portable air conditioners that could be moved around to different locations and easily installed to deliver spot cooling to the most demanding production areas.
After initial research, Dyer contacted Atlas Sales & Rentals’ Columbus office. 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 into precision lengths.
Initially they tried 1- and 2-ton portable air conditioners, but the smaller 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 Classic 60 is a 460-volt, 5-ton capacity (60,000 Btu/hr) cooler 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
states. Instead of being limited to 30 minutes, Wheatland crews can now work for two hours in the galvanizing area before needing relief for ergonomic (not heat) fatigue. Safran notes that there were no heat-related illness problems in the plant last summer since installing the coolers – compared to 4-5 incidents per year over the previous two seasons, and twice that number in prior years.
“Safety is always the number one goal,” Safran notes, adding: “When you make workers safer and more comfortable, efficiency and productivity are enhanced as well as morale,” he says. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Safran has purchased one Classic 60 portable cooler for the Council Avenue plant and has rented several supplemental units. This summer, he hopes to bring in more coolers to handle additional processes in the galvanizing shop. Safran says: “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. Atlas has provided state-of-the-art service throughout and has reacted quickly whenever we needed help.”
Portable cooling is a critical component in a total program instituted by Safran and his team to improve environmental safety and comfort. “This is a multi-pronged preventive program which also incorporates worker training, new rebreathers, regular hydration with electrolyte fluids and fruit pops, tightly monitored shift rotations and more,” he explains.
Wheatland Tube (www.wheatland.com) manufactures steel pipe and tube used for commercial and industrial, oil and gas, fire sprinkler systems, electrical raceways, fence framework, energy construction and solar related applications.
Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc. is a leading national distributor of portable cooling and heating products as well as portable devices for IAQ and remedial applications. For further information, contact Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc. at 800-972-6600; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; web www.atlassales.com.