Safety Experts NIOSH and OHSA Speak Out

By   9th December 2016

Make Sure Your Employees Stay Hydrated  – It’s Essential In The Workplace

One of the most dangerous issues arising from hot and sweaty working conditions is dehydration. This makes sense when you think about farming and construction workers who work outdoors and indoors in steel mills and metal processing plants and factories.

Employees who wear heavy protective personal equipment are also prone to dehydration wherever they work. And even sedentary workers can become dehydrated which can affect their performance and productivity!

Industry experts estimate that between 5 and 10 million workers cab suffer from “heat stress” and as such are subject to increased safety and health hazard risks. That is why it is vital that all employees have access to cool, clean water for drinking in order to protect their health and maintain productivity.

Unless employees are given ready access to water or other beverages, they can get dehydrated. Dehydration is the primary cause of dangerous illnesses like heat stroke and sun stroke. Moreover, employees who are properly hydrated are healthier and much more productive because they are alert, cool and comfortable.

How Our Bodies Deal With Heat

Our bodies cleverly maintain an internal temperature level that is fairly constant. This is usually the case even when the body’s extremities are exposed to fluctuating external temperatures. The body dissipates heat by varying the amount and rate of blood circulating through our skin and by releasing fluid on to the surface of the skin via sweat glands.

When the external temperature approaches its normal temperature, it is more difficult to cool the body because the warm blood being sent to the skin’s surface can’t lower its heat level. When this happens, sweat is released so that fluid can evaporate in order to maintain a more constant temperature.

However, the process of sweating does not in itself cool our body. Unless fluid is removed from our skin by evaporation, our body will not cool down properly. When someone is wearing protective clothes or a high humidity level is present in the atmosphere, this process can become compromised. When this happens, the ACGI (American Conference of Governmental Hygienists) state that long and profuse sweating can disturb the body’s cardiovascular operation.

water-hydration

Therefore, prolonged exposure in a very warm environment can result is a range of disorders brought on by high temperatures. Researchers have found that after 2 hours of moderate working, an employee could start to suffer from the first stage of heat induced stress. An hour later and the employee may begin to lose their energy, focus and strength. Once past the critical heat exposure point, employees may falls into an unconscious state and also collapse.

Remember, our bodies need fluid in order to maintain the function of our muscles and control body temperature. Therefore, when working conditions are hot and difficult, our bodies can dissipate around 1 and a half litres of water every 60 minutes as sweat. Another factor which can compromise the dissipation of body heat is the presence of sweaty skin and sweaty damp clothing.

Improving Skin Hydration

As a consequence of the foregoing, it is clear that the most important way of controlling heat stress is to ensure that our body’s water levels are being continually replenished in order to replace the fluid lost by sweating. This will help employees remain alert, productive, comfortable and safe.

Research has also shown that continual ingestion of fluids reduces the increase in body temperatures because it promotes a more ample supply of blood to the skin. The studies also demonstrated the fact that when significant volumes of water were drunk during physical work, greater rates of blood flow transpired.

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) recommends the fluid replacement as a preventative measure for heat exhaustion as well as a cure. Furthermore, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends drinking plenty of water in its top ten recommendations for remaining cool in hot working environments. They also  recommend that organisations adopt ISO 9001 quality systems as part of their commitment to employee welfare protection.

Indeed, ACGIH (Association Advancing Occupational and Environmental Health) also recommend high levels of water consumption for employees working in hot environments.

Experts in hydration from all 3 organisations recommend that people drink water every 15 minutes or so while working as well as during their normal rest breaks.

water-coolersThis will ensure that employees remain adequately hydrated in order to maintain their core body temperature at safe levels. By doing this, the cardiovascular system is subjected to less strain and which can result in a lot less injuries and illness arising from excessive heat.

Water Coolers – Convenient, Encouraging & Conserving

Companies that provide their workforce with facilities which promote health and well being, benefit by gaining improved employee morale, lower absenteeism and greater productivity.

That is because the average employee functions at around 65% of their potential if they aren’t properly hydrated which can lead to lethargy and demotivation.

However, providing employees with access to water coolers in their workplace will make it much easier for them to get a drink of cool water any time they want it.

By making water coolers available, employees are actively encouraged to make use of them. This ensures that workers derive the health benefits from increased healthy water consumption. Furthermore, water coolers are one of the most convenient and cost effective ways to make water available for consumption. Water coolers also help prevent wastage of water which is a benefit to the environment as well.

Recommendations for Optimal Employee Hydration

– All personnel must consume eight 225 millilitres portions of water daily
– In order to replace fluid lost though sweating, water should be drunk before, during and at the end of physical labour or hard exercise
– Stay clear of tea, coffee or carbonated drinks that contain caffeine which acts as a diuretic depleting the body of water
– Alcoholic drinks should not be consumed at work
– Heat cramps can be avoided by ingesting electrolytic drinks or those with added carbohydrates
– Try and predict when high humidity and high temperature conditions are likely to prevail and ensure plentiful supplies of water are available for drinking
– Ensure that glasses or bottles of clean, cool water are readily available in the immediate vicinity of working employees
– Drink lightly chilled water because it is absorbed more quickly by our bodies than warm or chilled liquids
– To ensure adequate hydration drink 225 millilitres of water every 20 minutes

Please remember, by the time a person feels thirsty, they are already dehydrated. By keeping employees well hydrated in all working conditions, they will be healthy, more productive and safer.

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