The construction industry poses some hazards to workers, but when you consider these hazards, does dehydration make the list? You might think about this on hot summer days, but what about the winter months? It’s important to keep your employees hydrated all year, to avoid some serious health issues.
Would it surprise you to know that Americans across the board are not drinking enough water? It’s estimated that up to 75& of Americans do not get the recommended eight 8-ounce cups each day. Any job that requires outdoor work means an increased risk of dehydration, because of increased exposure to weather and physical activity. If your employees are spending time outdoors, you need to consider their hydration, no matter the weather. In fact, MedExpress, one of the largest occupational medicine and workers’ compensation providers in the country, reports seeing patients due to dehydration as late as November and as early as March. Working in heavily layered clothing, workers may not realize that they are beginning to overheat and become dehydrated, so they often won’t remove clothing to help regulate temperature. Making sure your employees stay hydrated year-round increases productivity and reduces time off work and workers’ compensation claims.
Why is hydration so important? Water makes up between 50 and 70 percent of our body weight and is crucial for maintaining the body’s daily functions. Water helps regulate body temperature, lubricates joints, aids digestion, flushes the body of waste, and much more. The body is constantly losing fluids though, because of perspiration, sickness, heat stress, exercise, and even breathing.
When we lose too much fluid, the body protects itself to maintain the most important bodily functions. Kidneys start retaining water, the blood thickens, and the body slows or stops the process of sweating, which makes it hard to regulate internal temperature and can cause heat stress. Common signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, yellow or orange urine, and dizziness, but it can be felt and seen in many other ways too. Muscle cramps, dry skin, confusion, sunken eyes, lack of energy, and irritability are all symptoms of dehydration. How can you prevent dehydration in your construction employees?
- Provide dehydration education. In every safety seminar or training session, revisit the topic of hydration. Provide tips and reminders, and check in with team members on a regular basis to make sure they’re aware of the importance of staying properly hydrated. Teach your employees the symptoms of dehydration and how to recognize these signs in other people, but also teach them about the heat index, and how to remain aware of the protective measures they should be taking.
- Make your expectations clear. Set guidelines so your workers will understand best practices for avoiding dehydration and overheating. Strongly encourage them to:
- Drink water and eat fresh fruit, to remain properly hydrated.
- Take time to ease into any new job, starting out with a reduced workload and gradually working up to 100% over 5 to 7 days while the body adjusts to the heat.
- Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, preferably made of natural fibers or moisture-wicking
- Start work early in the morning, to avoid the peak high temperatures that occur between 3:00 and 6:00 pm.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade to rehydrate.
- Wear sunscreen and hats with brims.
- Give support. Distribute reusable water bottles to your staff, and make sure there are conveniently placed cool water stations across the worksite. Make sure properly trained safety personnel are on hand to monitor workers and provide first aid if necessary.
- Offer incentives. Establish a system in which workers can earn points for following the guidelines you set for preventing dehydration and overheating. Create a reward system in which appropriate actions, like drinking the right number of cups of water, wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, and avoiding dehydrating drinks like alcohol and caffeinated beverages, are tangibly celebrated.
At Work-n-Wear, we care about the safety and health of workers in our community, and that’s why provide work wear with competitive pricing and an extensive inventory. Family owned and operated, we have been equipping customers in Salem, Oregon for work for over 20 years. Stop by and check out our huge selection of workwear, or learn more about all we have to offer by calling 503.364.3064 or contacting us through the website.