How one Texas facility tries to beat the heat

How one Texas facility tries to beat the heat

By Dan Leif, E-Scrap News

Aug. 28, 2014

Step out onto the massive processing floor at ECS Refining in Mesquite, Texas, and the first thing you notice is the air, which on an August morning feels like 100-degree soup. It’s not exactly the ideal environment for manually dismantling e-scrap for 10 hours.

ECS managers say many potential employees don’t make it through the initial three weeks of training, but they note those that can handle the rigors of CRT de-manufacturing and other tasks are actually able to thrive at the Dallas-area facility that spans 250,000-square-feet.

A number of unique efforts made by the company help workers weather the conditions in a facility so large that air conditioning is not an economic or effective option.

First is the schedule. ECS line workers start at 5:00 a.m. and work until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a time frame that allows workers to finish up before the hottest part of the day.  Owing to the four-day work week, the facility's 50 or so line workers also benefit from three-day weekends.

In addition, workers are taught the warning signs of heat stress during trainings. And each morning, managers stock hydration stations in every area of the processing space. "There’s Gatorade and water in every department," said Jessica Urizar, the company’s EH&S and lean manufacturing administrator, during a tour of the facility for attendees of this week's WasteCon trade show. "They can walk off the line every time they need to grab a drink."

Depending on the job task, employees often must put on protective layers such as Kevlar arm sleeves and heavy masks. But some apparel does have body temperature built into its design. Urizar notes many employees wear gel-lined vests that are made to stay cool. Workers are also required to remove all of their gear during every break (two 20-minute breaks and a 40-minute lunch), and they are encouraged to take at least one of their breaks in an air conditioned space.

Overhead fans and stationary fans are also located throughout the building. Mist generators, like those seen on outdoor patios at Dallas’ fancier restaurants, aren’t part of the equation, however.

“We thought about it,” said Urizar. “But with all the dust that accumulates, they get clogged up. Then keeping them clean becomes a whole job in itself.”

Executives at ECS, which also operates a large processing facility in California, say the Texas facility takes in 150,000 pounds of material daily and moves out a corresponding 150,000 pounds. That equates to 22 million to 24 million pounds annually, a number that the company wants to boost. Managers say they are looking to add a second shift — 12-hour stints that would run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

That would mean another crop of employees, who will have to learn quick to cope with the North Texas temps.

“This is tough work and the environment is not for everyone,” said Urizar. “But we’re upfront about that in the orientation. People know what they’re walking into.”

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