Keeping the Construction Site Warm, Safe and Productive in Winter

Whether your goal is to maintain temperatures or control humidity, portable electric heating solutions can help

Keeping The Construction Site Warm, Safe And Productive1

By: Andrew Martin, product manager, Marley Engineered Products

Creating ideal working conditions for construction sites is more than a matter of comfort – it’s also a concern of safety and efficiency. Cold temperatures can significantly hinder productivity, while proper heating can help keep workers safe and prevent delays if faced with temperature or moisture-related snags. Whether your goal is to maintain temperatures or control humidity, portable electric heating solutions can help.

Warm Workers Are Productive Workers

Stuffy, hot conditions can make any task seem more laborious and fatiguing, draining the energy from workers. Environments that are too cold, however, are equally detrimental to employee focus and productivity.

Studies show that workers are most efficient when they are warm and comfortable. A study from Cornell University revealed that increasing the working environment temperature to warmer thermal zones can save employers significant money by reducing errors and improving employee focus. When an insurance company increased office temperatures by less than 10°, the productivity gains amounted to saving 12.5% of their wage costs per worker.[i]

Similarly, another study found temperature can directly impact social relations. When conditions are warm, workers are more open to close, collaborative relationships with colleagues and employers. When an environment is too chilly, workers feel more detached and isolated.[ii]

To avoid unnecessary dips in productivity and morale, many employers are adjusting the work environment temperature to keep workers warm and comfortable, both indoors and outside.

Temperature Challenges on a Construction Site

While office-based organizations have the luxury of simply adjusting a thermostat if the workplace becomes chilly or hot, construction companies must deal with the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Whether crews face an ice storm in August or a heat wave in January, they must be prepared to keep the project moving despite challenging temperature changes.

Cold weather conditions bring slippery ice, chilling winds and persistent snow that can handicap power tools or electrical supplies, as well as impact worker efficiency and safety. When outdoor crews are exposed to freezing temperatures or cold, damp conditions for too long, they can experience cold stress, which occurs when external factors drive down body temperature and cause cold-related illness and injuries. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are several factors that lead to cold stress:

  • Low air temperature
  • Wind speed
  • Air moisture
  • Contact with freezing surfaces such as ice

In these conditions, frostbite is a top concern, as it can quickly set in before workers are aware they are in danger; as well as trench foot, hypothermia and possibly permanent tissue damage. Similarly, unexpected ice creates unstable footing, resulting in falls, injuries and increased costs or delays. Furthermore, snow drifts and precipitation can create wet clothing and surfaces, putting workers at increased risk of illness or injury and creating new physical challenges on the site.

Advancements in meteorological forecasting and tracking tools such as Doppler radar, satellite and computer modeling are helping modern construction crews plan accordingly for weather conditions down to the hour. Nonetheless, unpredictable shifts in temperature can catch a crew off-guard and lead to expensive setbacks and delays when workers battle through challenging conditions.

Electric Heat with Construction in Mind

To combat weather-related obstacles, construction crews are investing in portable electric heating solutions that bring on-the-spot warmth to remote sites while taking up minimal space at a low cost. Modern portable electric heating sources address a variety of construction challenges:

  • Projects that require a dry environment: Cold, wet or humid weather can slow down projects that require mudding drywall or paint. Using electric heating to manage temperature and humidity can help meet deadlines and prevent rework.
  • Safe and clean heating: Heating solutions should not introduce toxins or safety hazards into the workspace. Electric heating is cleaner and safer than gas heating because it does not emit any of the byproducts that gas-powered heaters yield. It can also be used indoors or outdoors.
  • Diminish the risk of corrosion and mold: Moisture is one of the most destructive elements on a construction site because it encourages mold growth in porous building materials, rot and warping in wood and corrosion on metal. An effective heating strategy includes moisture mitigation to prevent decay, premature failures and the growth of harmful organisms in building materials.
  • Enhance productivity, safety and efficiency: Effective heating promotes worker health and comfort. When workers feel comfortable and are not exposed to hazards, such as fumes or mold, they will work more efficiently and absenteeism rates will decline.

When selecting an electric heater for a construction site, managers should consider both the size of the crew and the site itself.

Medium to large construction sites: Heavy-duty high-temperature electric blower heaters (e.g., Marley's MSDH Series and MEDH Series) are recommended. Some blower heaters are not only portable and can service large areas, but can also be ducted to route heat to desired areas.

Smaller worksites or home workshops: Smaller fan-forced heaters (e.g., the BRH Series, MMHD Series and MCM Series) or infrared heaters (e.g., the ARL Series and QHRA66 Series) provide portable and personal heating comfort in smaller spaces.

Whether a construction crew is finishing a long project while staving off early signs of winter, launching a new project at the start of spring or battling a brief drop in temperature, there is an electric heating solution that can meet their needs. Having portable heating solutions on hand will save valuable time, boost efficiency and keep crews happy – rain or shine.

Andrew Martin is a product manager at Marley Engineered Products, a North American designer and manufacturer of comfort heating and ventilation solutions for residential, commercial and institutional buildings. 

[i] Hedge, A., Sakr, W., & Agarwal, A. (2005, September). Thermal effects on office productivity. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (Vol. 49, No. 8, pp. 823-827). SAGE Publications.

[ii] IJzerman, H., & Semin, G. R. (2009). The thermometer of social relations mapping social proximity on temperature. Psychological Science, 20(10), 1214-1220. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02434.x

*This article was originally published in 2017.