As most places in North America roll into the summer season, people will find themselves sweating more and, as a result, have to drink more water to stay hydrated. Workers who are participating in prolonged periods of physical exertion may find themselves suffering from various signs of dehydration. Dehydration is just as serious as freezing and, since some of its symptoms are invisible, it can creep up just as quickly.
With that in mind, let's go over how to prevent dehydration on the job site.
The Importance of Water
Many people drink water without realizing how important it is for our bodies. It is one of the essential nutrients that our bodies needs to survive. It is essential for inducing the biochemical reactions that make our bodies function, as well as the catalyst for blood circulation. It acts as the regulator for our body’s temperature, and uses its absorption properties to shuttle heat away from the organs, which prevents heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death (see Six Serious Consequences of Heat Stress to learn more).
For operators and laborers toiling away in the extreme heat of the summer, staying hydrated is a serious safety concern. Once you start feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. This means you will have to work harder—that is, consume much more water—to get hydrated again.
If you are not drinking water at this stage, it is necessary for you to try to find a cool place to conserve energy and let your body cool down so you do not push your body into the next stage of dehydration. Further water loss can initiate fatigue, muscle cramping, fever-like symptoms, and potential breathing and flu-like issues; therefore, it is important that you keep a large supply of water nearby.
Preventing Dehydration From the Start
Dehydration is easily preventable when it is taken seriously as a safety concern. To prevent dehydration, keep the following in mind:
- Increase your overall water consumption and be sure to drink regularly. Even if you are not thirsty.
- If possible, take a look at your urine: the darker it gets, the more liquid you need to drink. This indicates that the water in your body is going to more vital processing areas like processing vitamins.
- If you suffer from dehydration and fruit is available, eat a lot of it, especially those with high water content, like watermelon.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Your body requires water to process caffeine, so it acts as a dehydrator if consumed in the absence of water.
- Reduce alcohol consumption prior to heavy exercise or work. A hangover is essentially a case of extreme dehydration. Being hungover and working out in the heat with little water is a recipe for disaster (see The Hangover: What You Should Know About Work and Alcohol to learn more).
- Eat foods with essential vitamins and nutrients, such as nuts, sports bars, and other high energy snacks, to keep your strength up when working or exercising for extended periods of time.
Carry Water With You
Workers such as tree planters or loggers who are often far away from convenience stores know how important a case of bottled water is. It is the lifeblood of their work in the middle of summer when they are working in the heat. If you are working in a remote location, regardless of your industry, it you should consider water as a tool for safety rather than a beverage. This goes for any activity, whether it is work or play, such as a day on the lake, ball game, or at the beach—water should always be on your safety list, packing list, and shopping list.
Adding Heat to Your Hazard Assessment
On most field level hazard assessments there is a box for extreme weather. However, most people do not think of heat as extreme weather in the same manner as they think of extreme cold. Working in the extreme heat can be just as dangerous as working in the extreme cold.
When completing your daily hazard assessment, look at the forecast to see what the temperature will be. Do this every day of the year and use the information to help plan how you will manage your workplace hazards.
Water is Part of Everyone's PPE
Those who have have forgot their water and suffered a hot summer day and lived to tell about it know how important this all-sustaining drink is. Remember: water is an essential part of your PPE during hot weather. When you do your safety checks, make a conscious note of including water to ensure you can work and function in the killer heat.
Learn more about how the weather effects your safety on the job site in Weather Matters: Spring Specific Safety Topics.