How can workers be protected from dehydration in confined spaces?

By Bubba Wolford | Published: November 20, 2019

Working in confined spaces can present many hazards and challenges. One of the most overlooked hazards can be dehydration and protecting workers from dehydration in confined spaces is often not well considered or planned.

When planning confined space work, the focus is often on the hazards within the space. Potentially explosive atmospheres, hazardous atmospheres, ventilation requirements, heat, cold, engulfment, drowning, hazardous chemicals and so on. These hazards are mitigated prior to entry but one of the things one must always consider is protecting workers from dehydration due to heat and sweating in confined spaces.

(Learn more in It's Not All About Fluids: 5 Factors That Can Lead to Dehydration.)

The potential for dehydration should be factored into confined space assessments, procedures and JHA’s where applicable. Assessing the conditions inside the space and planning around it is crucial. Some questions you may want to ask yourself are:

Fluid loss due to sweating in a hot environment and/or due to wearing non-breathable PPE must be considered to prevent heat and dehydration related illnesses. There are some steps you and your workers can take to avoid dehydration when working in confined spaces:

  • Hydrate prior to entry with water or electrolyte sport drinks.
  • Schedule hydration breaks.
  • Drink even when you don’t feel thirsty. Thirst is a sign of dehydration.
  • Have dry clothes or PPE on hand if wet clothes need to be changed.
  • Avoid caffeine as it dehydrates the body.
  • Avoid alcohol on the day previous as it dehydrates the body. Combine a hangover with strenuous work in a hot environment while wearing non breathable and you are asking for trouble.
  • Train workers on the importance of hydration.
  • Make hydration a part of your assessment, procedure and hazard assessment.
  • Ensure water and/or sports drinks are available and accessible. Take water with you in the confined space (only if safe to do so).
  • Reduce the temperature inside the confined space (if necessary, or possible).
  • Rotate workers if required.
  • Schedule the confined space work (if possible) to a time when conditions will be better.
  • Plan the job to reduce the amount of physical work required (if possible).
  • Ensure that you have sufficient human resources and tools and equipment to reduce exposure.
  • Examine your processes. Is it possible to do this job another way?
  • Select the most appropriate PPE for the job hazards and conditions.
  • Eat fruit with a lot of water content and high energy foods.
  • Re-hydrate after the job is complete.

With proper planning, resources and scheduling it is possible to reduce the risk of dehydration in confined spaces considerably. Don’t forget to consider it when planning for your next confined space entry.

Presented By

Logo for The Sqwincher Corporation

Share this

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • X

Written by Bubba Wolford | Director of Business Development

Bubba Wolford

Bubba Wolford received his MS in Exercise Physiology from Mississippi State University 1991. He joined Sqwincher in 2009, serving now as Director of Corporate Development and Training, where he spearheads promoting the importance of proper hydration within the Industrial Workplace to key corporate accounts.

More Q&As from our experts

Term of the Day

Grease Fire

A grease fire is a fire that catches on when cooking oil or grease becomes too hot. Heating grease will first cause it to…
Read Full Term

Let's Make Workplaces Safer!

Subscribe to the Safeopedia newsletter to stay on top of current industry trends and up-to-date know-how from subject matter authorities. Our comprehensive online resources are dedicated to safety professionals and decision makers like you.

Go back to top