Let's Make It Clear
Water is a vital component of all living things. We see that 70 percent of planet Earth and 60 percent of our bodies are composed of water. It keeps us functioning at optimal performance levels by regulating our core body temperature, carries critical nutrients to vital organs, and flushes internal toxins.
Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Also, a recently published Harvard study says that heat waves contribute to cognitive function slow down. In short, we do not make the best decision when we are hot!
Whether at work or home or on the job, our body is always working to maintain a balance and maintain its core temperature. Our bodies are constantly exposed to elements that in-crease body heat and deplete hydration levels. Workers must be extra careful when working in extremely hot or extremely cold conditions.
Risk factors that may influence heat illness include:
- High air temperatures and humidity -Direct sun exposure -Indoor heat sources (hot equipment/ processes, etc.)
- Limited air movement
- Physical exertion
- Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
- Personal protective equipment or clothing
- Certain medications
- Physical condition
- Amount of recent exposure (not acclimatized)
- Age (65+)
Symptoms of Dehydration
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea, dizziness or confusion
- Excessive perspiration
- Hot, dry skin
The most reliable means to monitor your hydration level is a urine color chart. The frequency and color of urine is a good measure of hydration throughout the day. You should be urinating throughout the day, and the color should be light to clear. If you find you have gone through the morning without a bathroom break and your coloring is yellow to dark yellow you are likely dehydrated. However, everybody is different. The exact amount of hydration intake depends on the individual. Considering the previously mentioned risk factors is essential. NIOSH recommends that for moderate activity in moderate conditions, each worker should drink 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Workers should be reminded to drink water frequently before becoming thirsty to maintain proper hydration. While some workers may prefer the taste of sports drinks, often these types of drinks are not necessary for electrolyte replacement. Workers that eat regular meals and salt-containing snacks will usually be able to replace electrolytes lost during sweating.
Hydration is a proactive task, waiting until there is an issue is too late!
When it comes to keeping ahead of becoming dehydrated here are several proactive measures:
- Have water easily and readily available
- Provide incentives such as reusable water bottles
- Set up shaded shelter and enforce breaks for all employees
- Provide appropriate PPE that lessens heat retention
- Education/Training are crucial to prevention/preparedness
- Get to know your Teammates, if you see someone that needs water and a break, make it known!