28.03.2017

COOL HEAD AT THE MELTING FURNACE

E.COOLINE stands test in Georg Fischer GmbH foundry

If you ever visited a foundry you will not need a thermometer to feel that there exist extreme temperatures. At individual workplaces, these temperatures often exceed 100 degrees and complicate each activity. At Georg Fischer GmbH in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the melting range is no exception. The company, which manufactures mainly vehicle parts for the automotive industry by aluminium casting, has however found new approaches for their workers. By using cooling textiles they try to make the extreme heat at the furnaces more bearable and to reduce the risk of accidents. Due to decreasing performance and concentration ability, the risk of injuries rises at high temperatures. The easy handling of the E.COOLINE vests and bandanas proved as a clear benefit in everyday work. The high-tech fleece is activated in seconds and develops its regulating cooling effect by the evaporation – with a double effect: The workers feel not only better at their workplaces but also benefit from the energy they saved after work.

„Already two days after the official kick-off for the cooling vests and bandanas a worker enthusiastically reported about his experience. In the meantime more and more colleagues report that they feel less tired after work“, Claudia Fröhling, H&S Officer at Georg Fischer GmbH says. Although the use of special textiles was originally intended to reduce mainly the risk of accidents during work time, the introduction of the cooling textiles had simultaneously a positive effect on the employee satisfaction. „It all started with a training I had“the H&S Officer explains. During this training, the occupational physician of Georg Fischer GmbH had read an article on the E.COOLINE vest for the first time. Claudia Fröhling was at once interested in this idea. „The vests provided an additional possibility to increase work quality“, Fröhling stated.

Activation and weight – two decisive factors

Based on its risk assessment, the company started to evaluate the market by means of tenders established according to the purchase specifications of their Swiss holding Georg Fischer AG. At the end, two bidders were shortlisted and an application test carried out with foundry workers gave the final result. During daily work the products of E.COOLINE scored better. Relevant factors were their good handling and their weight. The E.COOLINE products are just activated with water. The material is only shortly held underneath the tap to saturate with water. The user decides how much water he wants to have taken in by the fleece. After some seconds the surface of the textiles is dry. The vest can be either worn on top or underneath normal clothing and provides instant relief due to the principle of thermoregulation: By evaporation the high-tech fleece interacts with the outside temperature and prevents the user from overheating in a most effective and natural way. Claudia Fröhling explains the decisive criteria as follows: „To activate the E.COOLINE vest you just need a water tap whereas for the other vest a fridge would have been required. Despite weight added to the E.COOLINE vest by activating it with water, E.COOLINE was still lightweight. Lighter than the other vest from the freezer, according to the workers included in the test”.  The favorite product was thus selected.

Triumph for vest and bandana

In the meantime, Georg Fischer use 20 vests and the same number of bandanas. Each worker in the smelter – the area with the hottest temperatures – has his own personal textile for which he is responsible, i.e. care etc. Not only permanent but also temporary workers were equipped with the cooling textiles of E.COOLINE. For each of the workers the individual size was determined and after delivery of the cooling textiles each worker was personally informed on handling and cleaning by a member of PERVORMANCE international GmbH. Also here, the self-explaining handling of the textiles demonstrated its plus. „Many of our workers come from migrant backgrounds. Long explanations or comprehensive handling instructions do not help. When each of the workers had observed how the products were activated, the principle was evident for all“, Claudia Fröhling says. Since then, the vests and bandanas have been used every day – and recently even during 3-shift operation. Particularly during the daily clean-up of the smelting furnace, the cooling textiles are confirmed to provide relief. The worker who strips off waste metal with a rod is exposed to temperatures of 60 to 80° C. During these works, the cooling textiles are combined with the silver heat protection equipment which before, worn alone without cooling wear, had led to heavy sweating. Although sweating cannot entirely be avoided, the vest provides nonetheless more relief and well-being if worn underneath the PPE made to protect from aluminium spills. „Each worker has already found his own style in the meantime. Some wear the fleece on top of the foundry shirt and overalls, others underneath with a T-shirt. It is important that the material is not worn on bare skin“, Fröhling says. All workers are happy with the new protection equipment, except one who has problems with the cooling textiles because of personal health problems. Every day prior to starting shift work they activate their “cool helpers” which are stored in the lockers of the changing rooms or in the personal areas of the workshops. But the vests and bandanas are repeatedly moistened in between, because the water evaporates more or less depending on the temperatures at the workplaces.

Full acceptance from the beginning

„After the change was clearly perceivable during the first days of use, the application of the vests and bandanas has now been made a habit. The personal feeling of being fitter and less tired however remains“, Claudia Fröhling reports. The atmosphere at the workplaces has become perceivably better according to the H&S Officer. „The new method of cooling has also a psychological effect. Often the influence of heat is underestimated. Not only concentration and performance are affected by heat (leading to a higher risk of accidents), but also aggression increases due to the heat stress. Here, we noticed the change. The personal physical feeling of the workers is now much better. This leads to an improved and relaxed personal interaction“.

Regular care required

Due to the positive experience with the new helpers in the foundry, Claudia Fröhling is quite relaxed when it comes to the next audit of the company’s H&S management. As far as she is concerned, the only need for improvement exists in cleaning of the textiles by the worker. Although care of the products is quite easy – the material can be machine washed at 30°C using a pH neutral detergent – the workers must still be informed in detail. In order to avoid body odors during work, each shift manager has received a spray to neutralize odors. This bottle is kept available in the hall during work times so that workers can spray their vests and allow them to air out during breaks, for example. “Spraying does however not replace regular washing, this must be clear“, Fröhling states.

Cool into the future

As soon as the test phase of the cooling textiles is entirely completed, the stock of them will possibly be increased in the near future. Claudia Fröhling already considers equipping the colleagues of repair and maintenance with E.COOLINE products, as well. „The workers who, e.g., maintain the furnaces or exchange the heating units also fight with high temperatures“, Fröhling explains. Due to the positive experience with the foundry she can „warmly“ recommend the vests.