Casebook 2011: Fans improve comfort and safety for workers

Fans keep workspace cool while a smoke detector keeps employees safe.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
December 28, 2010 - MMH Editorial

If workers aren’t comfortable, all the paychecks, safety measures and high-tech equipment in the world won’t keep productivity high. Before a Black & Decker distribution plant installed massive fans and airflow monitors, the hot, stagnant air in the picking area was stifling worker performance. Together with built-in, fire-detection systems, the new fans have improved comfort and safety.
Black & Decker worked with a fan provider to select the right product from a range of 6- to 24-foot diameter fans, each engineered to integrate seamlessly into the building’s automation system.

The solution was tailored to a 40,000-square-foot pick area with 35-foot ceilings, replacing an exhaust system that helped to cool the building but kept air stagnant in the workspace. Employees can now enjoy fresh air as far as 75 feet away from the center of four 24-foot fans.

The company’s insurance provider was initially concerned that fans could interfere with fire safety, requiring the facilities manager to find a way to keep employees comfortable while also complying with insurance recommendations. The company installed two fan-mounted fire detection systems calibrated to monitor airflow and smoke detection continuously.

The detectors were then hardwired into the building’s alarm system. When they detect smoke, the fans alert the system and immediately power down.

“Our smoke detection option is an effective approach to alleviate concerns over the interaction between fans and sprinklers,” says Paul Lauritzen, senior director of special projects for the fan provider. “In full-scale burn tests, the system shut our fans down very quickly and the resulting sprinkler performance was almost identical to that of a control test with no fan installed.”

In the winter months, the same large-diameter, low-speed fans can be slowed, circulating heat trapped at the ceiling down to the occupant/thermostat level.

By reducing the amount of heat escaping through the roof, facility heating systems do not have to work as hard to maintain temperature, producing savings similar to turning the thermostat down three to five degrees.

(Big Ass Fans, 877-244-3267,

About the Author

Josh Bond
Senior Editor

Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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