Every spring and summer, millions of workers struggle with heat exposure in their workplaces. Thousands of these workers become sick, and some cases are even fatal. Physically demanding industries requiring heavy, protective gear, are most at risk. These can be either indoor or outdoor occupations and include jobs in construction, agriculture, manufacturing, kitchens, and many others.
There are several risk factors that contribute to heat sickness, but a lack of proper fluids and dehydration are at the top of the list.
Why does dehydration occur and how do you recognize the signs?
In hot environments, sweating is the body’s main way of cooling itself down. But sweating is only effective when it’s able to evaporate off the body. This process is hindered in humid conditions, and/or when wearing heavy PPE which prevents the sweat from evaporating. Without appropriate intervention, the body will continue to increase in temperature and lose up to 1.5 liters in fluids per hour, quickly leading to dehydration.
Some common dehydration symptoms include headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea, and exhaustion. There are also cognitive effects like anxiety, irritability, and disorientation. Another clear indicator is dark-colored urine. Left untreated, dehydration can become severe, and lead to collapse, seizures, and even death. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a coworker, take a break and restore your fluids.
How to prevent dehydration
One of the dangers of dehydration is that people are usually already slightly dehydrated before they experience any noticeable or unpleasant symptoms. Because of this, a preventative approach is always best.
Pre-hydrating before performing any physically exerting activities helps ensure a healthy start to the day. It’s a common mistake to wait until you’re thirsty because by that point you’re already 2-4% dehydrated. It’s also recommended to drink water roughly every 15-20 minutes, in order to maintain fluid levels. Post-activity hydration is also suggested.
Plan for daily water requirements in advance, to guarantee a sufficient amount of water is available for everyone. Account for important factors such as the number of people, the forecasted temperature and humidity, the difficulty of the work, and the type of gear and clothing worn by the workers. To be most efficient, place water coolers in multiple easily accessible locations, and spread throughout the worksite.
Additional hydration tips
- Drink small amounts of water slowly and at more frequent intervals (approximately one cup every 15-20 minutes), rather than chugging large quantities of water infrequently. This allows for maximum absorption and fluid retention.
- Avoid alcohol, even during the lunch break. Alcohol is a diuretic (which causes an increase in urination) and will only worsen the dehydration caused from sweating and heat exposure.
- Studies have shown that colder water is linked with a slower and overall lower increase in core body temperature when compared to room temperature water.
- The most important tip is to pay attention to your body. If you experience any symptoms associated with dehydration or notice them in others, make sure to take a hydration break (or have them take a break).
Proper hydration is crucial for both a healthy body and a healthy, productive workplace. If you’re an employer trying to keep your workers hydrated this summer Arizona Premium Water bulk delivers bottled water and coolers all over Mohave County and beyond. We can help you calculate your hydration needs, and deliver fresh, delicious water right to your workplace.