6 ways to prepare your facility for winter

Winter is coming. For facility managers, this means making sure the buildings they manage are prepared for chilly conditions, harsh winds and snowfall.

Getting your winter weather maintenance tasks done early is smart. You never know when the first snow will come, and the colder it gets, the more difficult it’ll be to make some facility upgrades.

1. Anticipate power failure and other winter-related disasters

Blizzards and ice storms can easily knock out power for a few hours or more. If your facility is in an area prone to these cold-weather storms, it’s wise to be prepared. In the event that a winter storm damages some of your equipment, emergency maintenance may be necessary. Know how to reach the professionals at Miner so the problem can be remedied as soon as possible.

Have a generator on hand and make sure it’s functional. Additionally, if you anticipate roads to your location to be tricky to navigate in harsh weather, keep necessary spare components handy so you can make an emergency repair in a pinch if a service professional isn’t able to reach out.

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2. Inspect your HVAC system

Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is highly important during the winter. Freezing conditions in your warehouse can create an unsafe environment for your employees and can damage your inventory. Make sure every component of your HVAC system is in top condition; this might mean hiring a professional to come to your facility to inspect your furnace, boiler, warehouse fans or other systems.

3. Make upgrades to reduce energy expenses

Climate control costs are one of the top operating expenses for many commercial buildings, Facility Executive pointed out. As such, it’s never a bad idea to determine a few areas where you can reduce heating costs.

If you don’t have ceiling fans at your warehouse, this is a good reason to invest; high-velocity low-speed fans push rising warm air back down to ground level where your employees and products need it most.

If you’re losing heat during a process that involves steam, such as a boiler, explore the option of installing a heat recovery system to make your facility a bit more environmentally friendly and lower costs.

If your building has insufficient insulation, it may be time to invest in new materials to keep your building isolated from temperature fluctuations outdoors.

4. Review your building envelope

Your first defense against a snowstorm, your building envelope should be one of the first things facility managers check prior to winter. If there are any weaknesses in the building envelope, like aging seals, cracking curtain walls or a sagging roof, it’s time for an upgrade, Facility Executive explained. Any of these problems can be exacerbated by ice and snow, and it’ll only be more challenging to address when the exterior of your building is frozen.

Your roof is one of the most critical features of your building envelope and deserves additional attention of its own. Check for holes, leaks or imperfections in the roof. These weaknesses can grow worse with freezing rain or snow. Pay close attention to vents to make sure they’re properly waterproofed and won’t allow melting snow to drip into your building.

Consider your roof’s ability to handle a pile of snow during a storm, Facility Maintenance noted. Is it designed so the snow will fall off, or do you have a flat roof that’ll hold it? Is the roof strong enough to withstand a few inches or more, depending on your area? Do you have a plan to remove snow from your roof when the time comes? It’s best to answer these questions now, before you need to figure out how to get a foot of snow off your roof.

Additionally, if you have any rooftop equipment or building features located outdoors, be sure these are properly anchored. Unpredictable weather and strong winds could knock these out of place, causing damage and creating a safety hazard.

Another important element of building envelopes is the doorway, as this is the area where precipitation, wind and cold air from the outside can enter your facility. High-speed doors allow workers to enter and exit the area, but protects your facility from the elements. Additionally, insulated dock shelters provide insulation to open dock doors.

5. Provide a safe working environment outside

Employees working indoors will have relief from the wind and snow when they enter your facility, but employees working outdoors aren’t always so lucky. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggested creating a shelter from harsh winter weather for your employees who spend extended hours outside. This may include a radiator and/or a shield to reduce wind chill.

OSHA also recommended limiting employee exposure to cold weather. Arrange for your outdoor work to be completed during the warmest periods of the day and schedule relief workers for longer periods of time spent outdoors. Also, provide your employees with warm liquids and ensure they have the proper winter attire.

The loading dock can create safety hazards all its own during the winter. Icy and snowy conditions can make the drive slippery; adding treads can make it easier for truck drivers to approach and leave the dock. Snow and ice can cover lines painted on the pavement, making it challenging to determine where it’s safe to drive. Frequent shoveling and salting can help make these more visible. Finally, icy conditions can increase the risk of trailer creep. Trailer restraints can ensure the truck is secure and stationary at the dock, reducing the risk of employee injury.

6. Check water pipes and gas lines

Your water pipes and gas lines are essential to keeping your facility operating in top condition. Inspect these building features to ensure they’re in good shape. If you note any signs of deterioration or cracks, it’s important to replace them as soon as possible. Cold weather can make these imperfections larger and more challenging and expensive to remedy later on. Leaking water and gas can cause extensive damage and create an unsafe working environment. Plus, wasted water and gas are expenses you won’t see a return on.

As winter nears, it’s important that managers perform any facility maintenance necessary to keep their warehouse operating efficiently and their workers safe. Reach out to Miner to have a professional review your equipment and building. Our service professionals can make suggestions on where and how to improve your facility to increase safety and efficiency.